One Nation Under Bush   

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one.

This may be the first and only time the "Bush Pledge" has been taken at an event I've attended (or any event for that matter), but I'm not the best witness. One of the unfortunate drawbacks of traveling with a presidential candidate is that you arrive at a political rally when he does, which means you arrive right before he speaks. Neither President Bush nor John Kerry spends a lot of time waiting backstage while the warm-up acts address the crowd. Those speakers are timed to end when the candidate arrives (although, given that Kerry is habitually late, I wonder if they tell the introductory speakers to go long), so the traveling press typically misses their remarks.

Because I've been traveling "outside the bubble" of the campaign planes for the past week, I arrived at a Thursday rally for Laura Bush before it began, and I sat with the local press. For only the second time, I witnessed a Bush campaign event in full. It wasn't a particularly notable experience, except for the fact that it opened with that weird pledge of fealty, reminiscent of the cultlike cheer that Wal-Mart forces its employees to perform. There were a few good lines, such as this one from Florida state Sen. Mike Haridopolos: "Our president likes to sign the front of your check. His opponent likes to sign the back of your check." But the second-most memorable event was a remarkably mendacious speech given by U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida's 16th District.

Foley had the gall to condemn Kerry for his "reckless disregard for the facts" in a speech in which the least of his errors came when he sloppily claimed that John Edwards has served in the U.S. Senate for four years, rather than six. The main target of Foley's attack was Kerry's criticism of the president for allowing the al-Qaqaa weapons dump to be looted, presumably by terrorists, during a war that was designed precisely to prevent such an event from occurring. "The senator from Massachusetts immediately grabbed onto that without doing any checking, any fact-checking. He didn't even call Dan Rather," Foley said. But "NBC News followed up saying, oh-ho, not so fast. We don't have all the facts yet. Yet he went on national TV and announced, with reckless disregard for the facts, that somehow during George Bush's administration, these weapons were stolen." Foley's right in one sense, that we still don't have all the facts. But here's a fact that emerged after Foley's speech: Former weapons inspector David Kay said on CNN after viewing the footage of the site filmed by ABC News, "There was HMX, RDX in there. The seal was broken. And quite frankly, to me the most frightening thing is not only was the seal broken, lock broken, but the soldiers left after opening it up. I mean, to rephrase the so-called Pottery Barn rule. If you open an arms bunker, you own it. You have to provide security."

Foley continued, "Well, folks, one thing it does prove: There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before we went there." Well, um, there were weapons. The explosives weren't biological, chemical, or nuclear. And they were locked up by the international weapons inspectors derided by the administration, and they were "liberated" by the president's war. But instead of concluding that the war was a mistake, or at least that it should have been conducted differently, Foley declared, "The other thing it proves is that Saddam Hussein was the most important weapon of mass destruction to remove, and this president took him down." If we invaded North Korea and that country's nuclear weapons ended up in the hands of al-Qaida, would that prove that the invasion was a success?

But if you don't believe the Iraq invasion was justified, you can still vote for President Bush because he hugs little girls and, most important of all, he threw a baseball. After telling the audience of his personal experience of Sept. 11, Foley revisited the story of Bush throwing out the first pitch of the World Series in 2001, which received a hilariously somber treatment in a video narrated by Fred Thompson at the Republican convention. Like any tall tale, the story has become more and more embroidered with time. In Foley's version, the president boldly strode to the mound "without a bulletproof vest." But the entire point of the convention video was that throwing the ball from the mound was so difficult because Bush's arms were restricted by a bulletproof vest.

I'm not sure which is crazier, thinking that al-Qaqaa proves that the Iraq war was justified, or that President Bush stood on the mound at Yankee Stadium less than two months after 9/11 without wearing a flak jacket. Based on his speech, Mark Foley is either delusional or he has a serious problem telling the truth. But you can't blame him. He's probably angling for a job in a second Bush administration.


          I Want My GOTV   

COLUMBUS, Ohio—With only nine days until this election is over (or so everyone hopes), we've reached the stage of the campaign when the political press evaluates each side's ground game. The media's track record on this is not encouraging. Almost exactly nine months ago, reporters were wandering around Iowa judging the merits of everyone's "organization, organization, organization." The verdict: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt were the men to beat. We were dazzled by Gephardt's union support and by Dean's "Perfect Storm" of door-knocking, orange-hatted, out-of-state volunteers. They both got creamed.

In hindsight, Dean's Perfect Storm has been judged a debacle on two levels: It annoyed Iowans, who don't like outsiders, and it tied up Dean's staff with organizational headaches—where should we house the Stormers? How can we keep them busy?—when the staff's time would have been better spent figuring out how to get Iowans to the caucuses. But at the time, it got great press.

So, perhaps it's a bad omen for Kerry's ground game in Ohio when I discover that Christy Setzer, the woman who handled press for the Perfect Storm, has been assigned to deal with national reporters who parachute into Columbus to watch America Coming Together, the New New Thing of the general election, in action. That's not meant as a slap at Setzer—she's a terrific person who's good at her job (see the aforementioned glowing press)—but the parallels are irresistible. Like the Storm was for the caucuses, the George Soros-funded ACT is the Big Question Mark of the general election: How many of the new voters it registered in the past year are authentic? How many of them will show up to vote? Can this unconventional strategy win Kerry the presidency?

ACT's army of red-coated canvassers are Kerry's Afghan warlords: He's outsourced his base campaign, his voter-registration drives, and a healthy chunk of his get-out-the-vote operation to them. Much of the rest of the operation will be handled by the groups (including ACT) that make up America Votes, another 527 that coordinates the voter-contact and voter-turnout operations of a host of interest groups, from the AFL-CIO to Planned Parenthood, to ensure that everyone's on the same page. In a sense, America Votes does for the liberal ground game what Grover Norquist's weekly meeting does for conservative talking points.

When I ask Setzer to compare ACT to Dean's Storm, she says it differs in important ways. For one, the canvassers are paid workers and not volunteers, and the organization tries to hire locals instead of out-of-towners. More important, perhaps, the canvassers are supposed to identify voters and get them to the polls, not tell voters their personal stories of how far they've traveled and why they're committed to Howard Dean (or John Kerry). But the real key is that they don't work for just one weekend.

The secret to turnout is frequent face-to-face contact with voters. That's a lesson Steve Rosenthal, the national head of America Coming Together, learned during his years as the political director of the AFL-CIO. Many people attribute Al Gore's victory in the popular vote in 2000—and his wins in every close state except Florida—to Rosenthal's turnout operation for the unions in 2000. Donna Brazile has called Rosenthal "the last great hope of the Democratic Party" and has compared him to Michael Whouley and Karl Rove. ACT is a national version of what Rosenthal did for Philadelphia Mayor John Street in 2003. In that race, 38,000, or 44 percent, of the 86,000 new voters Rosenthal registered came to the polls, he told National Journal earlier this year, compared to 28 or 29 percent of what the magazine called "voters from the same neighborhoods and similar socio-economic backgrounds who had registered on their own."

In Ohio, ACT sends out between 200 and 250 paid canvassers each day. They get paid between $8 and $10 an hour. Setzer reels off impressive numbers: We've knocked on 3.7 million doors in Ohio, had more than 1 million conversations. On Election Day, ACT will send out 12,000 volunteers, each paid a stipend of $75 for travel and expenses, to make sure voters get to the polls. ACT and the partner organizations that make up America Votes have registered about 300,000 new voters in Ohio, and they'll consider it a success to turn out just half of them. Those voters alone, though, wouldn't swing the election. Four years ago, Bush's margin of victory was nearly 180,000 votes. In all, Ohio has between 700,000 and 800,000 new voters for this election, though Setzer points out that some of that could just be churn from voters who moved.

My trip to watch two ACT canvassers in action wasn't very impressive, but that's because it was a Potemkin canvass, organized for the benefit of an MSNBC reporter and his camera. Malik Hubbard, 26, and Julian Johannesen, 32, walked up and down a few blocks in a largely African-American neighborhood in Columbus on a Saturday afternoon. As ACT's field directors for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, Hubbard and Johannesen don't usually canvass themselves. Each man carried a Palm Tungsten T2, which contained the addresses of the voters they were supposed to contact. It's Saturday afternoon on the day of the Ohio State homecoming game, so it's not optimal door-knocking time, but they do their best to put on a good show. When a voter answers the door, the canvasser gives him or her a flyer that has the address of the local polling place stamped on it. He explains that the polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., advises the voter to bring some form of identification to the polls in case their registration is challenged, and asks if there are any questions. On two separate occasions, a voter worries about a false rumor that the neighborhood's voting machines have been replaced with punch-card ballots. After talking to each voter, Hubbard and Johannesen input the data into their Tungsten T2s.

Over the next nine days, canvassers will follow up with voters, continuing the personal contacts. For what it's worth, the Bush-Cheney campaign in the state is following a similar strategy, though it doesn't partly rely on an outside organization to carry it out. "I'm not saying we're gonna outperform the other side, because they have the potential to be spectacular," says Dave Beckwith, a Bush-Cheney spokesman in Ohio. "I'd just rather be where we are, with a real solid model." The model is the Republican "72 Hour Program," Karl Rove's get-out-the-vote operation from 2002, which helped the Republicans gain House and Senate seats in the midterm elections. Like ACT, the 72 Hour Program relies on frequent face-to-face contact with voters, what Bush's Ohio campaign manager Bob Paduchik calls "the volunteer-to-voter interface."

"By and large, it is an effort to move closer to the Democrat knock-and-drag vote drive," Beckwith says. Republicans have traditionally relied on things like direct mail to get out the vote, but this time, "We are going to the personal contact system." The Bush-Cheney campaign has printed up small pamphlets that contain a list of each committed Bush voter in a neighborhood, along with voters' phone numbers and a map of the area. On Election Day, a volunteer takes the book and checks off each voter after they go to the polls.

Beckwith admits that the Democrats have registered more new voters than the Republicans, but he says that their work was done by "mercenaries"—and they have "people signed up by crack addicts"—while his side employs volunteers, or "liberty-loving free men." Beckwith then drifts into a reverie about the Battle of San Jacinto and explains how Sam Houston knew that "conscripts" and the forces of "despotism" couldn't defeat free men. The enemy was saying, "Me no Alamo," Beckwith says with a laugh. (At another moment in the interview, Beckwith observes of the Kerry-Edwards campaign offices, "I think they're on Gay Street, which is interesting, because we're on Rich Street.")

At the Bush-Cheney headquarters, I mention to Paduchik, Bush's Ohio campaign manager, how the media overestimated the effectiveness of Dean's Perfect Storm. Paduchik says the evidence of Bush's organization in Ohio is the size of his crowds, because the campaign distributes its tickets through its volunteers. When you see 22,000 people in Troy, Ohio, or 50,000 people in Westchester, Ohio, you know you're looking at "a real organization," he says. "It's not because we had tickets you could download from the Internet. It's not because we had put them on car windows, or had people pick them up at a 7-Eleven, like the other side does."

On the way out, I'm reminded that all this work on both sides isn't necessarily a sign of confidence. As we walk to the door, Beckwith points to an empty portion of the Bush-Cheney offices. That's where the staff for Sen. George Voinovich works, he says. "These cocksuckers are up 30 points and they're never in here."


          Bush's Big Mistake   

TEMPE, Ariz.—"The president is an alien. There's your quote of the day," Ken Mehlman said before the final presidential debate to reporters who were peppering him with questions about the rectangular shape underneath the president's jacket during the first debate. "He's been getting information from Mars," said Bush's campaign manager, and at the debate, "his alien past will be exposed."

Well, at least it wasn't that bad. Indisputably, this was the president's best debate. Just as it took Al Gore three debates to settle on the right tone during the 2000 campaign, President Bush figured out in his third face-off with John Kerry how to be neither too hot nor too cold. But Kerry was as good as he can be, too, and more important, what good the president did with his performance will be overshadowed Thursday when the TV networks spend the entire day running video clips of him saying of Osama Bin Laden on March 13, 2002, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

By denying that he had ever minimized the threat posed by Bin Laden, Bush handed Kerry, during the very first question, the victory in the post-debate spin. The Kerry campaign's critique of the president is that he doesn't tell the truth, that he won't admit mistakes, and that he refuses to acknowledge reality. Bush's answer played into all three claims. Within minutes, the Kerry-Edwards campaign e-mailed reporters the first of its "Bush vs. Reality" e-mails, complete with a link to the official White House transcript. A half-hour later, the Democratic National Committee circulated the video.

If the president had ignored Kerry's charge, everyone would have forgotten about it. By contesting it, Bush handed Kerry two gifts: As delighted as the Kerry people must be by yet another untruthful statement from the president, the substance of this particular statement is even more important. Dick Cheney's false declaration that he had never met John Edwards didn't help the Bush campaign, but this error will be orders of magnitude more damaging. Video of the vice president standing next to Edwards at a prayer breakfast is embarrassing. Video of the president saying he isn't concerned about the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks is devastating.

The president's blunder also provided at least a glimpse of the foreign-policy debate I hoped to see. Here's a more complete version of the president's 2002 comment: "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban." The president's philosophy toward the war on terror could not be clearer: It is a war against nation-states, not against "nonstate actors" like al-Qaida. Bin Laden was dangerous because he controlled a state, not because he controls a terrorist network. When the Bush campaign talks about "going on the offense," this is what they mean. Kerry, after all, talks about hunting down the terrorists where they live. To Bush, that's not good enough. The subtext of the initial exchange between Bush and Kerry was more illuminating than the entire first debate.

The Bush counteroffensive to the president's mistake was to try to find a Kerry misstatement to fill in the "on the other hand" section in fact-checking news stories. During the debate, Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt sent out an "Urgent Alert" to reporters that read, complete with weird capitalization: "John Kerry's statement that he passed 56 bills during his 20 years in the senate is a complete and utter falsehood. Kerry passed five bills and Four resolutions." In Spin Alley after the debate was over, Bush campaign communications director Nicolle Devenish called Kerry's comment about the number of bills he authored his "Al Gore moment." But when Schmidt asserts that Kerry passed only five bills and four resolutions, he means bills that passed both houses of Congress and were signed into law. The Bush campaign's own "Breaking Debate Fact" e-mailed during the debate says that Kerry was the lead sponsor of 31 bills, 122 amendments, and 28 resolutions that passed the Senate.

Kerry did make some misstatements of his own, of course. He repeatedly said his health-care plan covers all Americans, which isn't true, and his assertion that the Bush campaign hasn't met with the Congressional Black Caucus isn't true, either. After the debate, Joe Lockhart admitted that Bush had a "ceremonial" meeting with the black caucus. But Kerry's minor inaccuracies will be overshadowed by the video of Bush saying, "I truly am not that concerned about him."

The most telling pre-debate quote came from Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who told the New York Times that the first debate "was a chance for the president to lay [Kerry] out and just lock it. In the past two weeks, that's been turned on its head." That was my sense going into this debate: The situation was precisely the reverse of where the campaign stood before the first debate. Another decisive win for Kerry could have ended the race, as the campaign dominoes would have begun to fall his way. That didn't happen, and the debate was much closer than Kerry would have liked.

But as with previous debates, Kerry won the post-debate instant polls. After the last two, Kerry's margin of victory grew substantially beyond the margins in the snap polls. Bush's Bin Laden goof will give Kerry his best opportunity to score a post-debate knockout.


          Daydreaming About Dean   

MIAMI—Can we change horses in midstream? Democrats wanted Republicans and independent voters to be asking themselves that question at this stage in the presidential campaign, but with little more than a month to go before Election Day, some Democrats are asking it of themselves. It's the seven-month itch: The long general-election campaign has led the voters who settled down with Mr. Stability to wonder what would have happened if they had pursued their crushes on riskier but more exciting candidates. What if dreamy John Edwards were the nominee instead of John Kerry? Would he be better able to explain his votes for war and against the $87 billion to fund the war? Would his campaign have been leaner and more effective than Kerry's multitudes? Or what about Democrats' first love, Howard Dean? Remember him? Would his straightforward opposition to the war in Iraq look more prescient now than it did during the Iowa caucuses, which were held shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured?

The most surprising Democrat to engage in this daydreaming is one who never dated Dean in the first place: Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic. Writing in Time, Beinart says, "[T]here's reason to believe [Democratic primary voters] guessed wrong—that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is." Deaniacs can be forgiven for being a little bit piqued at the timing of Beinart's conversion. After all, most Dean supporters thought Beinart's magazine did its best to torpedo the Dean candidacy for much of 2003, including an online "Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe." But TNR also ran glowing profiles of Dean and his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, and it never married Kerry, either. Although the magazine ultimately endorsed Joe Lieberman, its endorsement issue contained an article praising every other major Democratic contender—Dean, Edwards, Dick Gephardt—except John Kerry. So, it's understandable why Beinart would be one of the first to fantasize about divorce.

Beinart argues that Dean's clarity on the war, his straight-talking authenticity, and his lack of a Senate voting record would have forced President Bush to focus on the issue of Iraq, rather than the character of John Kerry. Not everyone who worked for Howard Dean during the primaries agrees that the Vermont governor would have been a stronger nominee—in fact, some say just the opposite or even burst into laughter at the notion—but one senior Dean adviser that I talked to Wednesday agrees strongly. "If Howard Dean were the nominee right now, nobody would be wondering where he stands on Iraq, nobody would be accusing us of not fighting back, and we wouldn't be fighting to hold on to our base," said the adviser, who asked that his name not be used. Kerry's "thoughtful and nuanced positions" might be an admirable quality in a president, but they're difficult to defend during a campaign.

A Dean general-election campaign would have contrasted Dean's record with Bush's in three ways: Dean being against the war versus Bush being for it; Dean's record of balancing the Vermont budget while providing health care versus Bush's largest deficits in history with no health care; and a new wrinkle that was only hinted at during the primaries, Dean's mysterious, infrequently mentioned "tax reform" vs. Bush's irresponsible tax cuts. Yes, Dean would have repealed the entire Bush tax cut, the senior adviser said, but he would have proposed replacing it with some Dean tax cuts, including the elimination of payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income. The message: Bush cuts taxes from the top down, but Dean cuts them from the bottom up. Why didn't Dean introduce this during the primaries, when his tax-hiking ways made some Democrats think he would be an electoral disaster, the second coming of Walter Mondale, in the fall? He wanted to wait until after the Feb. 3 primaries because "he didn't want people to think he was pandering," the adviser said.

The Dean adviser did go out of his way to insist that he was not criticizing the Kerry campaign. The Republicans "might have destroyed Howard Dean," too, he said, but "I just think Howard would have matched up differently and better." The Dean adviser praised Kerry's maligned convention, which made voters believe that Kerry was a viable commander in chief who was as good as Bush or better on the issues of terrorism and homeland security. "They were in perfect position after the convention to win this thing," he said, quickly adding that he's not saying they've lost it. But then he added, "They basically are hoping that Bush shits the bed in the debates."

Of course, it's pretty obvious that the Republicans would have run a different campaign against Howard Dean than they did against John Kerry. But that doesn't mean it would have been any less effective. And if Dean couldn't beat Kerry, what exactly would have made him so formidable against President Bush? Would Dean's support for civil unions in Vermont have made gay marriage a much bigger issue in the fall? Was there something in his past that we didn't learn about? Would the aggressive campaign he would have waged in the spring and summer—leaping instantly on every bit of bad news from Iraq, from Abu Ghraib to Fallujah—have backfired? Would Dean have been able to build a campaign that brought together his divided Vermont and D.C. factions? It's impossible to know, though divining that impossibility is exactly what Democratic primary voters charged themselves with this time around.

Falling in love with Dean all over again ignores what made Democrats fall out of love with him in the first place. An incomplete list: his infuriating stubbornness and refusal to admit mistakes; his lousy white-background TV ad in Iowa; and his shift from a straight-talking, budget-balancing, health-care-providing Vermont governor to the shrieking leader of a cult movement. In Iowa, Dean's poor showing was exacerbated by the fact that he was the second choice of no one. He and Kerry found out that in American democracy, it's better to have a large number of people barely tolerate you than to have a smaller number like you a lot. By the weekend, it will be clear whether Kerry managed to rally a nose-holding majority to his side at Thursday's debate. If not, expect to hear a lot more conversations like this over the next 33 days.


          Long Live McCurry!   

PHILADELPHIA—"Long live McCurry," wrote the Boston Globe's Glen Johnson in a Tuesday pool report, distributed to the members of the traveling press corps who hunt the elusive Senatorus massachusetts. The occasion for this joyous outburst: John Kerry responded to a question, and the press credits Mike McCurry, the former Clinton press secretary and now the "adult on the plane" for the Kerry campaign, with making the Democratic nominee more accessible. "Will transcribe, but nothing earth-shaking," Johnson wrote. "At least he stopped to answer, though. Long live McCurry …"

McCurry denies that he's responsible for the shift and credits communications director Stephanie Cutter for pushing for more accessibility long before he arrived last week. Either way, the reporters don't care. We were just happy Thursday that Kerry was answering questions again. He did it twice this time, very quickly on the tarmac here with unified middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins and earlier in a more formal environment in Columbus, Ohio. Of Hopkins, Kerry said, "He was giving me tips. He told me exactly how to do it over the next days." Hopkins said, "Exactly, the left hands, the jabs, the whole nine yards." The Globe's Johnson asked, "So you're coming from the left, sir?" Kerry: "I'm not telling you where I'm coming from. That's the secret, right?" Hopkins: "That's right. You don't tell everyone, especially the opponent." For the record, Hopkins has successfully defended his title 19 times, which beats Bob Shrum's 0-7 mark.

In Columbus, Kerry took only three questions, but again, we're not complaining. ABC's Dan Harris asked: "You criticized, to the AP, the president for 'retreating,' I believe was your word, from Fallujah. Given the situation on the ground in Fallujah when there was an offensive there, when there was a rising civilian death toll, a rising criticism among Arab media for our actions there, what would you have done differently?"

Kerry responded in what was almost a reproachful tone, complaining about how "you people judge me" and how his policies "would have prevented Fallujah." Here's his response in full: "Let me tell you, I've said many times, I wouldn't have just done one thing differently in Iraq, I would have done almost everything differently. And when you people judge me, and the American people judge me on this, I want you to judge me on the full record. I stood in Fulton, Mo., and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood at Georgetown University a year and a half ago, and I gave the president advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I stood on the floor of the Senate and gave him advice about what he needed to do. He didn't take it. I've laid out a whole series of things I would have done that would have prevented Fallujah. Let me tell you, if the 4th Infantry Division and the diplomacy had been done with Turkey, you wouldn't have had a Fallujah. This president rushed to war, without a plan to win the peace. And ask the military leaders. Go ask the military leaders. General Shinseki told this country how many troops we'd need. The president retired him early for telling the truth. That's why you have Fallujah. That's why you have a mess in Iraq. And that's not the kind of leadership this nation deserves."

As for McCurry, I had dinner with him Thursday night. Here are some quick takeaways from our conversation:

—He's concerned that the message-masters at the Bush campaign, such as Nicolle Devenish and Mark McKinnon, have a better understanding of the Internet and nontraditional media than the Kerry campaign. The slow response to the Swift boat ads was a sign of that, a lack of awareness that voters can acquire information from places other than newspapers and the nightly news.

—John Glenn told Kerry Thursday not to worry about the polls that show Bush opening a big lead in Ohio, McCurry said. That always happens around this time, Glenn said, and the mistake people make is to write off the state because of it, as Gore did. McCurry said Glenn persuaded Clinton to remain in Ohio after a similar spike in the polls in 1992, and Clinton carried the state.

—Why are the polls showing an increase in undecided voters? One theory: Soft Republican supporters and soft Democratic supporters are highly volatile this campaign, and the conventions made them "more inchoate." The Republicans are mostly pro-choice moderates who are wondering whether Bush is really compassionate, and the Democrats are moderates who are wondering whether Kerry is really a New Democrat.

—The windsurfing ad that the Bush campaign is running against Kerry is an attempt to be this year's "Dukakis in the tank" spot. McCurry thinks the Kerry campaign neutralized it with their quickly assembled response ad, though it's not over yet.

—McCurry would like Kerry to talk more about abortion, about how he struggles with it because of his Catholic faith. He thinks Kerry needs to come up with a "safe, legal, and rare"-type formula that assures anti-abortion swing voters that he understands their moral concerns and isn't dismissive of them.

—McCurry has never been a big believer in the role of advertising or get-out-the-vote drives in presidential campaigns, though he's acquired a new respect for GOTV after 2000 and 2002. He thinks presidential races come down to whether the candidate can make the sale on the stump. You can't, after all, run TV ads that are completely different from what voters are seeing on the news.

Which leaves the obvious question: Can Kerry make the sale? That was where the race stood before the Democratic Convention in July, and that's where it remains two months later. Kerry hasn't shown he can do it yet. He's got 40 days.


          Kerry Answers Questions!   

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—John Kerry emitted an exasperated sigh. The last time he held a press conference, on Aug. 9, he confused everyone by saying he would have voted for the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq even if he had known that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Now, six weeks later, the press still doesn't understand his position on the war. At least, they keep asking about it.

Kerry took 11 questions Tuesday. Ten were about Iraq, and eight of those 10 were requests for Kerry to clarify his position. Question No. 1: President Bush says you think the world would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power. Is that right? No. 3: Are you responsible for the fact that many people are confused about your position on the war? No. 4: Can you explain your support for the congressional resolution on the use of force? No. 5: How do you square the fact that you believe the world is better off with Saddam out of power with your statement to David Letterman that you wouldn't have gone to war with Iraq? No. 6: You didn't answer the earlier question. Are you responsible for the fact that people can't figure out your position? No. 8, the one that led to the frustrated noise: The president appealed to the United Nations today. How is what you're suggesting any different from what the president is doing? No. 9: If presidents deserve to be able to go to the United Nations with the leverage of congressional authority to use force, why did you vote against the 1991 war with Iraq?

Maybe Kerry wished he was back on Live with Regis & Kelly that morning, when the questions had been easier: You're very handsome, Senator. How do you stay in shape? Do you have a routine? Don't you think that Tom Cruise could play John Edwards in the movie? Who would play you? (Kerry's answer: "I don't have any idea." Kelly Ripa interjected, "Harrison Ford.")

But this time during the press conference, unlike the one in August, Kerry's doesn't let himself get sucked into the Green Eggs & Iraq (Do you like it on a train? Would you like it on a plane?) discussion that the Bush campaign loves to goad him into. Instead, he sticks to his change vs. more-of-the-same script: "The president wants to shift the topic, and I'm not going to let him shift the topic," Kerry says. "This is about President Bush, and his decisions, and his choices, and his unwillingness as I said in my speech yesterday to live in a world of reality." Kerry uses that phrase, "world of reality," four times. In all, he uses the world "reality" or "realities" (as in, the "realities on the ground") 10 times. "The president keeps wanting to debate fiction, or hypotheticals, rather than debate the reality of what's on the ground," Kerry says. "The president has not denied one of the facts that I laid out yesterday" in a speech in New York.

The reason so many people are confused about his position, Kerry says, is because they interpret his vote, incorrectly, as "a vote to go to war." "It wasn't a vote to go that day. It was a vote to go through a process," to give the president leverage at the United Nations and to get the inspectors back into Iraq. Kerry emphasizes on several occasions that he's been consistent on this point. "I said so all along," he says, sounding irritated. "Every one of you throughout this knows I have said there's a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this, and the president every step of the way has chosen the wrong way."

Kerry's right on this one. From the beginning, he's been consistent, if complicated, on the meaning of his 2002 vote. The Boston Globe's Kerry book quotes his mouthful from the Senate floor: "The vote that I will give to the president is for one reason and one reason only, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction if we cannot accomplish that objective through new, tough weapons inspections in joint conference with our allies." Kerry added of President Bush, "I expect him to fulfill the commitments he has made to the American people in recent days—to work with the United Nations Security Council ... and to 'act with our allies at our side' if we have to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.' " Four days later, Kerry said, "What's happened is every single member of the United States Senate moved to take it to the U.N. with a willingness to enforce through the United Nations if that is the will of the international community. ... There is no justification whatsoever for sending Americans for the first time in American history as the belligerent, as the initiator of it, as a matter of first instance, without a showing of an imminent threat to our country." Walter Shapiro's chronicle of the early stages of the 2004 campaign, One-Car Caravan, confirms this point. Shapiro hears Kerry say in October 2002, "My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I'm voting for you to do what you said you're going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I'm not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I'm not going to support you."

Disagree with Kerry's reasoning if you want, call him ambivalent or even unclear, but you can't say that he's been inconsistent or that he flip-flopped. Kerry is wrong, however, that his 2002 vote doesn't contradict his 1991 vote. The first time around, Kerry expressly criticized the justification he would use 12 years later, calling it "dangerous" and "flawed." In 1991, Kerry said, taking the quote again from the Globe book, "This is not a vote about sending a message. It is a vote about war." Kerry could explain his change of heart fairly easily (for example, 9/11 changed everything, didn't it?), but instead he takes the Bushian stance of denying the "world of reality." During a long, confusing, and unconvincing explanation of how the rationale for his 1991 vote is consistent with the rationale for his 2002 vote, Kerry eventually stops himself and remembers his script: "That's not the debate. That's the debate the president wants to have now. The debate now is whether or not you have a plan to win, and whether or not you are facing the realities on the ground in Iraq." Back on message.

Kerry has emerged with a message that makes sense before. His problem is his inability to just pick one and stick with it. If he can hang on to this one for nine days, he might get out of the first debate alive.


          Kerry's New Movie   

TORONTO—We're at the point in the campaign when we're supposed to wring our hands over the decline of politics, mourn the lack of coverage of "the issues," and decry the media's focus on personality and the horse race. But my guess is we're about to get mired in the muck of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth all over again. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, a new documentary by George Butler, hits theaters in the United States on Oct. 1. The film, which had its world premiere here Tuesday evening, is sure to land the Swifties in the news again. For one, the movie is based on Tour of Duty, the Douglas Brinkley hagiography that the Swift Boat vets say incited them to action in the first place.

More important, Going Upriver seems designed to rebut, one by one, the three campaign ads put out by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: one questioning Kerry's heroism during the war, one criticizing his antiwar testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and one condemning his decision to throw his ribbons over a fence in front of the Capitol during an antiwar demonstration. Butler re-edited his film in response to the Swift Boat ads, and he said after the premiere that the movie wasn't finished until Tuesday morning. On the matter of Kerry's conduct during the war itself, Butler has Kerry's "band of brothers" describe his actions on "Silver Star day," and Jim Rassman tells the story of how Kerry saved his life and won the Bronze Star in the process. In addition, numerous speakers talk about how dangerous commanding a Swift Boat was, and how deadly.

On Kerry's Senate testimony, Butler shows the statements made by veterans at the "Winter Soldier" hearings in Detroit, where veterans confessed to committing atrocities during the war. Some of those claims have been disputed, but the Winter Soldier hearings were the basis for Kerry's statements about atrocities before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Butler shows veterans talking about shooting children and gang raping a woman in public. In the film, Kerry protests that he didn't personally see anyone chop off someone's head, but he believes that the U.S. government's policies in Vietnam—such as burning the homes of noncombatants, or creating "free-fire zones" in which all Vietnamese were deemed to be the enemy—were in violation of the laws of war.

As for Kerry's tossing of his ribbons, Butler spends a long section of the film showing veterans angrily and defiantly hurling their medals toward the Capitol. The sources interviewed for Going Upriver discuss how "painful" the protest was, how it was "terribly difficult," "extremely hard," etc. Perhaps to dismiss the charge that Kerry's protest was somehow phony because he tossed his ribbons instead of his medals, a speaker points out that some veterans threw their medals, others threw their ribbons, and others tossed their citations or even the boxes that their medals came in. Kerry was almost the last man to stand before the microphone during the protest, and according to Tom Oliphant, he "kind of lobbed" his contribution over the fence and walked away.

During this scene, Butler includes a photograph of Kerry shoving his ribbons through the fence that he left out of the film's companion book. The next shot is the one of a crumpled Kerry, being consoled by Julia Thorne. The demonstration was designed to illustrate that "the sacrifices that we went through were for nothing," says Bobby Muller, one of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. "That's the bitter pill, and I think that's the harder pill to take, frankly," than coming back and saying their service was necessary for the continuation of freedom and the American way. Throughout the film, Muller is Kerry's most effective advocate, the man who most persuasively argues that what Kerry did when he returned from the war was not just defensible but morally correct.

Swift Boat Vet obsessives will note that there's nothing about the (unfair) criticism of Kerry's Purple Hearts or the fact that Kerry was likely in Cambodia in January or February instead of the previous Christmas. More important than those details, however, are Butler's other omissions. For example, in Tour of Duty Brinkley quotes some of Kerry's crewmates talking about their initial anger at Kerry when they learned he was leading antiwar demonstrations. Though they later came to understand his decision—and believe that he was right—at first they felt betrayed. Butler, however, shows only David Alston, who says he was glad to see Kerry speak out. On the other hand, Going Upriver is honest about something the Kerry campaign isn't: The film bothers to point out that when Kerry volunteered for Swift boat duty, he wasn't asking for one of the war's most dangerous jobs. At the time, the boats were engaged in coastal patrols, checking the papers of commercial fisherman.

One more Swift Boat-related bit of news from the premiere: During the Q&A with Butler after the film was over, a member of the audience asked him why he didn't include anything about Christmas in Cambodia. Butler explained that it's very difficult to know whether Kerry was in Cambodia, then changed the subject to the lack of credibility of John O'Neill, the co-author of Unfit for Command. (O'Neill appears in Going Upriver when he is dredged up by Richard Nixon and Charles Colson to be a public-relations counterweight to Kerry and the VVAW.) O'Neill, Butler pointed out, denied ever being in Cambodia despite telling Nixon otherwise. But in the course of telling the story, Butler seemed to imply that he, or someone on his crew, leaked the tape of O'Neill's comment to the news media. "We found a Nixon White House tape," Butler began, before stopping himself. "Or, there is in existence a White House tape ..."


          Looking Backward   

ST. LOUIS—Remember when this was John Kerry's race to lose? Now the question on everyone's minds is whether he's lost it, and if so, what it will take for him to win it back. The Kerry campaign remains stagnant—though improved from where it was a week ago—because, despite claims to the contrary, it hasn't absorbed the lesson of Michael Dukakis' failed presidential bid. Or worse, Kerry might have learned the wrong lesson from 1988.

The Kerry campaign's belated response to the false allegations leveled by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was hailed as evidence that the specter of Dukakis looming over the campaign had been lifted, because Kerry had finally "responded." But merely rebutting a charge isn't sufficient to avoid Dukakis' fate. Standing up and saying "I am not a wife beater" doesn't fix the problem. Saying the other guy beats his husband does. The lesson of the Dukakis campaign isn't that you need to "respond" by defending yourself. The lesson is to change the subject with a counterattack.

Look at the Bush campaign's response to Kerry's criticism of the 17 percent hike in Medicare premiums. Rather than rebut Kerry's charge or defend the administration's decision, the Bush-Cheney team released a new ad Thursday blasting Kerry for voting "five times to raise Medicare premiums." The 30-second spot ends with the kicker, "John Kerry ... he actually voted for higher Medicare premiums ... before he came out against them."

The despondence among Democrats over the superiority of the Bush-Cheney campaign team is real. The news cycle has taken a turn in Kerry's favor, but his campaign hasn't figured out how to turn the news to his advantage. During the past week, the 1,000th American died in Iraq, the administration announced the largest deficit in the nation's history, new documents about Bush's service—or lack thereof—in the National Guard emerged, and Dick Cheney made a statement so repugnant that his own staff disavowed it almost immediately. What has Kerry been able to do with these events? Maybe worse than nothing. Most notable, the 1,000th casualty led Kerry to describe the situation in Iraq as "the war on terror," and the campaign hasn't devised a good explanation for why he did that. (Though there is an emerging theory that by agreeing with Bush that Iraq is part of the war on terror, Kerry can use Iraq as evidence that Bush has mismanaged not just a sideshow in the war against al-Qaida, but the whole thing.)

The event some Democrats point to as emblematic of the Kerry campaign's refusal to play rough: Back in August, after Tom Harkin called Dick Cheney a "coward," the Iowa senator was yanked from a bus tour. The Kerry campaign denied the two events were linked, but not everyone believes them, particularly in light of the fact that the Kerry-Edwards team vetted the speeches at the Democratic Convention to ensure that no speaker criticized the president or his record too harshly.

There's a good reason not to want Sen. Harkin as the point man attacking Cheney's war record: During Harkin's 1992 presidential campaign, the Wall Street Journal called him "carefree" with the facts, particularly about his military service. "Mr. Harkin did serve in the Navy during the Vietnam era, but exactly what he did, and for how long, remain a matter of some dispute," the newspaper reported.

But if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have taught us anything, it's that the credibility of an accuser is less important than the explosiveness of the charge. The Democrats may finally be learning that. Harkin is now back on the bus, so to speak, being trotted out to fire away at Bush and Cheney in much the same say Bob Dole and President H.W. Bush were sent out to lend credibility to the Swift boat charges. "Never defend, always attack," was Harkin's advice to Kerry in the New York Times, and the campaign seems to have taken him up on it. Of Cheney's statement that electing Sen. Kerry as president would invite a catastrophic terrorist attack, Harkin said on CNN Wednesday, "You know, I thought Dick Cheney limited his obscenities to the Senate floor." Showing mastery of the art of flinging whatever accusation you can, no matter what the topic, Harkin decided it would also be a good time to attack Cheney for war profiteering: "You know when you think of Vice President Cheney and his viciousness in that kind of remark, the fact that he still has his hand in the till of Halliburton that is making money off of Iraq, I would say that Mr. Cheney is the 2004 version of Spiro Agnew."

Kerry doesn't need to be making accusations like these himself, as he unwisely did the night after Bush's convention speech when he attacked Dick Cheney as a draft dodger. That's what surrogates are for. There was a sign Thursday that the candidate may have learned that lesson, too. At a Des Moines town hall, Kerry was talking to a 91-year-old veteran, and he told her, "That's something you never forget, your service number." From the crowd, a man called out, "George did!" Kerry waited for the laughter to subside, and then he paused and said nothing more than, "Well, moving on."


          For Shame   

Click the image to see the clip For pretty much the duration of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth controversy, the Kerry campaign has been trying to demonstrate that the smear campaign being conducted against the Democratic presidential nominee is all the more loathsome because it is part of a pattern of behavior by George W. Bush: the use of front groups to damage his campaign opponents by putting false statements into the political bloodstream. Particularly salient, Democrats believe, is the 2000 campaign conducted against John McCain during the South Carolina primary.

Democrats now have an unlikely ally in their quest to prove that Bush has a history of these kinds of dirty tricks: Bob Dole. No one has done more to lend establishment respectability to the falsehoods being peddled against Kerry than Dole. The former Senate majority leader and 1996 presidential nominee of the Republican Party made several demonstrably false statements about John Kerry's war record this past Sunday on CNN's Late Edition before saying that "not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges."

But Dole also made another statement that day, one that hasn't been aired until now. Of McCain's charge to President Bush during a 2000 debate—"You should be ashamed"—Dole told Wolf Blitzer, "He was right." Dole made the remark off-air, while CNN broadcast a portion of McCain's 2000 debate remarks. The Kerry campaign had been using the debate footage in an ad called "Old Tricks" but stopped airing it recently at McCain's request. *

Although the remark was made off-air, it wasn't made off-camera. A CNN employee who asked not to be named made a digital file of the raw camera feed from the Late Edition studio. The footage does not include the graphics or other video, such as the McCain ad, that was shown during the live broadcast. "Once the control room punches the ad, it automatically kills the mics in the studio," the CNN employee told me. "He knows he can speak to Wolf and no one will hear him." Slate has posted the video, so you can see Dole's remark for yourself. (Click the image to view the clip.)

Question for Bob Dole: If President Bush should be ashamed of his behavior four years ago, why aren't you ashamed now?

Correction, Aug. 31, 2004: This article originally stated that CNN's Late Edition broadcast the Kerry ad called "Old Tricks," rather than the actual debate footage. Return to the corrected sentence.


          That '70s Campaign   

NASHVILLE—The Democratic Party's estimates of its chances of defeating President Bush in November have rebounded in concert with John Kerry's campaign. A little more than a month ago, most Democrats were overly pessimistic about the 2004 election. Now they're overly optimistic. Sunday afternoon, during a press conference prior to a Democratic Party rally at the downtown Hilton here, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., declared not only that "Bush 43 looks very beatable at this point," but also that 2004 could be a congressional "tidal wave year" for the Democrats, akin to 1994 for the Republicans.

And if 2004 isn't a Democratic 1994, maybe it's 1976. That was former Vice President Al Gore's message to the Tennessee Democrats Sunday night. In an angry, sweaty shout, sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Gore drew an extended comparison between the post-Watergate election of 1976, the year of his first election to Congress, and the post-Iraq election of 2004. John Kerry's two main rivals in Tennessee, Wesley Clark and John Edwards, spoke to the party, too, but Gore was clearly the main event. And if he wasn't before he spoke, he was by the time he was finished.

"You know, there was a mood in '76, a spirit of unity, a feeling of determination that we were going to win that race that year," said Gore, clearly linking that feeling to the resolve of 2004 Democrats to win back the presidency. Gore, however, wasn't referring only to the feelings of national Democrats in 1976. He was referring to the feelings of Tennessee Democrats, who were bitter over a Senate race that had been lost six years earlier.

Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., was defeated in his 1970 campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Gore made a number of comparisons between 1970 and 1976 in Tennessee and 2000, 2002, and 2004 in America. "President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors," he said, implying, it seemed, that Nixon smeared his father in the midterm elections of 1970 just as President Bush smeared Georgia Senator Max Cleland in 2002. "They tried to make out like my dad was an atheist because he didn't want a constitutional amendment putting the government in charge of telling children how they ought to worship God in the public schools," Gore said. "They came out with accusations that he was unpatriotic because he was opposed to the Vietnam War and the mistaken policy that got us into that war." Gore recalled his father's concession speech on Election Night: "He took the old Confederate slogan about 'The South shall rise again,' and he stood it on its head. And he proudly proclaimed, 'The truth shall rise again!'"

Gore was also drawing an analogy between his father and himself. He was expressing the hope that just as his father's loss was redeemed by the election of a Democrat, Jim Sasser, to his U.S. Senate seat six years later, so too could Gore be redeemed after his loss to George W. Bush, if the Democrats reclaim the White House in 2004. As Gore stood on stage before his remarks, I wondered, what must it be like to be Samuel Tilden? What's it like to be haunted by the fact that you're a historical footnote? Gore's speech provided some answers.

"We have seen an administration which in my view more closely resembles the Nixon-Agnew administration than any other previous administration," he said. "There's a reason I say that. I don't offer that as simply a casual slur." The crowd laughed. "I'm not above a casual slur," Gore added, in a "mind you" tone, to more laughter. "But I'm biased, I didn't vote for the guy." A man calls out, "Neither did America!" To which Gore responds, "Well, there is that."

He continued: "But here's the reason I say that President George W. Bush reminds me more of former President Richard Nixon than any of his other predecessors. Nixon was no more committed to principle than the man in the moon. He, as a conservative Republican, imposed wage and price controls. Hard to believe in this day and time. But he did. And he cared as little about what it meant to be really conservative as George W. Bush has cared in imposing $550 billion budget deficits and trillions in additions to the national debt. That has nothing to do with conservatism and everything to do with his effort to get re-elected!"

Gore then explained how he planned to travel to Iowa in September 2001 to deliver "a real ripsnorter of a speech" that would have harshly critiqued President Bush's first nine months in office and broken Gore's political silence. He abandoned his plan after the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, and instead swallowed his pride and told the Iowa Democrats of the man he clearly feels stole the presidency from him, "George W. Bush is my commander-in-chief."

"I think there were millions just like me, who genuinely, in spite of whatever partisanship they may have felt prior to that time, genuinely felt like they wanted George W. Bush to lead all of us in America wisely and well," he shouted.

"And the reason I'm recalling those feelings now is because those are the feelings that were betrayed by this president! He betrayed this country! He played on our fears! He took America, he took America on an ill-conceived foreign adventure dangerous to our troops, an adventure that was preordained and planned before 9/11 ever took place!" Gore closed with his father's line from 1970: "And so I say to you in closing my friends, in the year of 2004, the truth shall rise again!"

The crowded erupted in a frenzy that recalled a Howard Dean audience circa August 2003. Which, if you think about it, is pretty much where Gore still is. Many Democrats took the 2000 election personally, and they saw the Dean campaign as the outlet for their anger and frustration. But no Democrat could have taken it more personally than Al Gore. To those who speculate that Gore's endorsement of Dean was a crude and ill-timed political calculation, this speech was a repudiation.

Not only does he believe that he should rightfully be president, he also thinks he performed his patriotic duty in the aftermath of 9/11, and Bush screwed him for it. To Gore, it seems that beating Bush wouldn't suffice. He wants to convince the world that Bush is one of history's worst presidents.

Gore is still popular with the Democratic base, but after this speech, the question for the party's nominee has to be, do you want this man to speak at the convention in Boston? Even if you like the sentiment behind this speech, if Gore delivers an address like this one in July, the historical analogy won't be to the Democrats of 1976 or to the Republicans of 1994. Instead, the comparison will be to the disastrous Republican convention of 1992. The angry white male is back. Do the Democrats really want him?


          Republican Campaign Preview   

ST. LOUIS—Dick Gephardt's congressional district is Busch country, if not Bush country, so if you're going to hold a Republican presidential campaign rally in a Democratic stronghold, this one's as appropriate as any. Mary Matalin, who's on board the Bush-Cheney '04 team as a campaign adviser, is in town with a phalanx of Missouri Republicans. I'd say she's in town to distract media attention from the Democratic primary in the largest of the Feb. 3 states, except there's pretty much no Democratic campaign to speak of in Missouri. As a result, Missourians appear more interested in the Democratic primary for governor, between incumbent Gov. Bob Holden and State Auditor Claire McCaskill, than in presidential politics.

The Bush rally does, however, provide some insight into the general-election campaign message that the Bush-Cheney campaign is trying out. If the Democratic primaries and caucuses over the next four or five weeks are a referendum on John Kerry's electability, it's worth knowing what he's expected to be electable against. Monday's rally is the second Republican event I've attended this campaign—the other was in Nashua, N.H., where John McCain stumped for the president—and the president's re-election argument, as advanced by his surrogates, couldn't be clearer. The Republicans want the threshold question of this election to be: On Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2001, would you rather have had George W. Bush as president or his Democratic opponent?

Both Bush rallies that I've attended emphasize the idea that the president merits re-election as a reward for past performance, as much as—or even more than—any promise of future results. "On Sept. 11, when this nation faced in many respects the greatest threat to our security, President Bush stood forward, led this nation with clarity and with strength, which has earned him the admiration and appreciation of the overwhelming majority of Americans, and I believe has earned him another term as president of the United States of America," McCain said in Nashua. The speakers at Monday's event strike similar notes. "This is a man who has restored peace to the American homeland, after we suffered the worst attack we have suffered here since Pearl Harbor," U.S. Sen. Jim Talent says. U.S. Sen. Kit Bond puts it this way: "I'm most concerned about the war on terror. When Sept. 11, 2001, hit us, George Bush knew what to do."

Al Gore tried to run on the Clinton record of peace and prosperity. The Bush campaign looks like it will run on arguable prosperity and war. Kerry's line that the war on terrorism is as much a law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering operation as it is a military one is derided. "There's only one person gonna be running for president in November of this year who believes that the war against terrorism is a war, against a transnational army that attacked and every day threatens the people of the United States, not a law enforcement action against a few stray criminals," Talent says. Matalin concurs. "This is not a law enforcement effort, as has been said. This is a war. This is a global war. This is a war between barbarism and civilization."

Local boy John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act receive a heaping of praise. "John Ashcroft and the Bush administration have been successful," Bond says. "According to the FBI director, at least 100 planned terrorist attacks, underway for the United States, were disrupted because they used the Patriot Act. Thanks heavens we have the Patriot Act and we have somebody like John Ashcroft ..." I think Bond's concluding phrase is "who's going to use it," but I can't hear him over the crowd's applause. This is Bizarro World when compared to the Democratic campaign trail, where Ashcroft is deemed a supervillain second only to Karl Rove.

"The polls show that one of our colleagues in the United States Senate is leading in the Democratic primary here," continues Bond, referring to Kerry. "He wants to get rid of the Patriot Act. He voted for it, now he doesn't like it." The effectiveness of that line is undercut by Bond's demagogic follow-up: "Personally, I like being free of terrorist attacks." The crowd laughs appreciatively. Later, Matalin says that John Ashcroft is more than a mere terrorist-fighting, cell-breaking, plot-disrupting attorney general. "John Ashcroft is a hero."

Argument No. 3 is that the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are irrelevant. Partly, because as McCain said back in New Hampshire, "Saddam Hussein acquired weapons of mass destruction, he used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his enemies, and there is no expert that I know that doesn't believe that if Saddam Hussein was still in power he would be attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction."

But the humanitarian benefits of the Iraq war are emphasized more than the threat posed by Saddam. In Nashua, McCain cited a mass grave of 3,000 "men, women, and children," and added, "My friends, when those 8- and 9-year-old boys were let out of prison in Baghdad, our effort and our sacrifice was justified." Matalin compares Bush's hope for a democratic Iraq to the hopes of Islamic radicals. "There are forces that want to go backwards, that are for oppression, repressing women, there is no freedom, versus going forward into the modern world," she says.

After the event is over, I tell Matalin that the Republican pitch sounds backward-looking. OK, people liked President Bush after 9/11. But that's not an agenda. What's the president's plan going forward? "This is a generational commitment to get this job done," she says. "It took 60 years of a policy of hypocrisy, turning the other way when there was oppression and tyranny in that region, to create this kind of terrorism against America. So, getting a whole region to bring in the hallmarks of a modern state, private property, human rights, rights for women, a judicial system, market principles, it takes more than a campaign cycle. So, he reversed a 60-year policy that wasn't working in the region, and he is putting in place, which is going to take more than one term or two terms, collective security arrangements for the 21st century."

That's a mouthful. And it sets up what I think will be the most intriguing question of the general election. Which candidate will succeed in portraying himself as the internationalist in the race? The Democratic contenders push cooperation, alliances, and multilateral institutions, but they also use nationalist rhetoric to tar Bush for spending money abroad rather than spending it at home (say, "opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in the United States," a Kerry line). Taking off on some of that nationalist rhetoric, the Bush surrogates describe Democrats as isolationists who want the United States to abandon its leadership role in the world. The Democrats respond by describing President Bush as a unilateralist who abandoned the nation's role as a global leader. Who will succeed in defining himself as a broad-minded internationalist and his opponent as a narrow-minded nationalist? Our next president.


          Who's No. 1?   

DES MOINES, IOWA—To give you an idea of how crowded Iowa is with presidential candidates and those who follow them, here's what happened in the first hour and a half after I landed here Wednesday night: At baggage claim, I encountered two Kerry campaign workers in need of a lift, so I dropped them off at Kerry HQ, which is downtown in what used to be a car dealership. Moments later, when I pulled up in front of my hotel, the "Real Solutions Express"—the big, blue, star-spangled Edwards bus—was sitting outside. After I checked in, I rode up the elevator with Juan Williams. Ten minutes later, my next elevator ride was with Aaron Pickerel, the Iowa political director for the Edwards campaign. In 20 minutes of TV viewing, I saw ads for Dean, Kerry, Kucinich ("Did I approve this commercial? You bet"), Edwards, Dean again, and Kucinich again.

Two days ago, the Iowa storyline seemed pretty clear: Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt would duke it out for first place, and John Kerry and John Edwards would compete for third. But now, if the latest Zogby poll is to be believed, it's a four-way run for the finish. No one seems to have any idea how things are going to go down on Monday, but at the moment, the race feels so close that the results won't winnow a single candidate from the race.

Right now, the biggest mystery of the campaign to me is what's gotten into John Edwards? After his spectacular performance at the Des Moines Register debate earlier this month, I thought to myself, "Too little, too late." After the Register endorsed him, I yawned. But a campaign rally this afternoon at the Renaissance Savery Hotel is the first Edwards event I've witnessed where an enthusiastic crowd gave him the aura of a winner. Before today, I'd only seen Howard Dean and Wesley Clark perform this well. (I'll weigh in with a judgment on John Kerry after I see him tonight.)

North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley introduces Edwards with the best introduction speech I've heard for any candidate this campaign. He praises Edwards' opponents, saying: "They've all served our country well. I don't have anything negative to say about any of them, and neither does Sen. Edwards." Then he says something artfully negative about them anyway. "I'm running [for re-election] this time, and I want to run with someone I can run with, not from." Easley prepares the crowd for Edwards' theme: The North Carolina senator has dropped his aw-shucks, son of a mill worker, I've-done-this-my-whole-life campaign, and now presents himself as a fighter who has defeated powerful interests and powerful Republicans. "When he decided to run [for U.S. senator], he took on the toughest Republican establishment in the history of this country," Easley says.

Edwards has expanded one of the most effective portions of his stump speech, the part about "two school systems, one for the haves, and one for the have-nots," and turned it into the campaign theme. There are "two Americas," he says: two school systems, two tax systems, two economies, even "two governments in Washington, D.C." America also has "two images all around the world," the shining City on a Hill versus a new, less flattering image that's been created by President Bush.

Edwards has always gone after lobbyists, but now he's more strident about it. "We ought to cut these lobbyists off at the knees," he says. "We ought to ban them from making political contributions." He rails against the "revolving door" between lobbying and government, and he condemns "war profiteering." "We ought to ban these companies from making political contributions at the same time they're bidding on Iraq."

Of the corporate lawyers who underestimated him in the courtroom, Edwards yells: "I beat 'em. And I beat 'em again. And I beat 'em again." Ditto for "the Jesse Helms political machine," which underestimated him during his race for the U.S. Senate, he says. "And now I'm the senior senator from North Carolina, not Jesse Helms! And that is good for America!" (This fires up the crowd, but won't John Edwards not be the senior senator from North Carolina next year, because he decided to run for president instead of re-election? Is that bad for America?)

By the end of his speech, Edwards is sounding more and more like the man he's been chasing, Howard Dean. Up to now, most of the non-Deans have been trying to copy Dean's message by mimicking his anger, but Edwards zeroes in on another part of Dean's pitch, the part about empowering "you." Edwards promises to take away Washington from "that crowd of insiders in Washington, D.C.," and restore it to you. He can't do it alone, he says: "You and I are going to do it together." And the last line of his speech is no longer about himself, about an America in which the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president. Instead, the son of a mill worker sounds like the son of a stockbroker: "I believe in you."

On the subject of speaking precisely: I've been inundated with complaints about my recent piece that listed six statements made by Wesley Clark in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I lumped statements that are objectively inaccurate (there were no terrorists in Iraq before the war) with statements that are demagogic (we could find Osama Bin Laden "if we wanted to") with statements that are imprecise (the statement that Bush "never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden" can be defended logically, but so can Howard Dean's statement about the "Saudi tip-off" conspiracy theory that a secretive administration breeds conspiracy theories; neither are smart politics) with statements that are merely provocative and controversial and could be used to tar Clark unfairly (for example, I think it's unwise for Clark to focus on whether 9/11 was preventable). And I didn't outline which statement I believe falls in which category.

The point of the piece, which was admittedly not clear, was to suggest that Clark may not be the "electable Dean" that his supporters believe he is. Both candidates have a propensity to make statements that range from impolitic to provocative to simply inaccurate. If you like Clark or Dean, you're predisposed to excuse these statements or to see them as courageous truth-telling. If you don't like them, you have a different reaction. I wanted to highlight this similarity between the two candidates, which belies the consensus that Clark is supported by careful centrists and Dean by angry liberals. I wish I had been more precise.


          Flight Attendant Union Champions Clean Air for Passengers and Crew, Applauds Lawmaker Action   

Washington, DC (June 28, 2017) — The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) praises Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) amendment to the Senate FAA Reauthorization Bill (S.1405) with support from Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). The amendment calls for fume event training for flight crewmembers, improves contaminated air reporting requirements, and add sensors to air systems on commercial aircraft. 


          Senate Republicans Are Screwed on Trumpcare, and They Know It   
none
          Analysis: GOP Health Bill Could Cost California $114B   
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 28: Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. After more senators said they would not offer support, senate Republican's yesterday announced they would delay a vote on their revised health-care bill. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)California officials say the state's budget could take a $30 billion annual hit if health care legislation proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans is passed.
          Gorsuch is already pushing the Supreme Court right on religion, guns and gay rights   

When Judge Neil M. Gorsuch went before the Senate in March as President Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, he sought to assure senators he would be independent and above the political fray.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democratic judge,” he said more than once. “We...


          Senate Republicans aim for new healthcare bill by Friday, but skeptics remain   

          LOOP: Senate GOP delays health care vote for a week   
HEALTH CARE // Lacking the 50 votes need to pass health care, Senate Majority Leader delayed a vote on the GOP plan for a week. Senate Republicans then visited with President Trump at the White House where he warned them of the ‘cost of failure.’ http://cvote.it/2skdgl3 HEALTH CARE // A pro-Trump group decides to pull ads slamming a Republican Senator who attacked [...]
          The Senate plan means 22 million uninsured? Let’s take a honest look at that number   
Senate Republicans have announced that they are delaying a vote on their health care plan by at least a week. The news comes after several Senators had second thoughts because a report from the Congressional Budget Office suggested that under the GOP plan 22 million people would not have health insurance. The U.S. Bishops cited the [...]
          Democracy Reporter - Toronto Star - Toronto, ON   
The assignment will focus on electoral and senate reform, as well as ideas, policies, technology and tools to aid democratic innovation. What You Will Be Doing....
From Star Media Group - Mon, 01 May 2017 20:02:39 GMT - View all Toronto, ON jobs
          June 28th 2017, 2-3pm   

President Trump welcomed the World Champion Chicago Cubs to the White House today. The State of Illinois may not be able to pay lottery winners. Republican leaders have put a hold on a healthcare bill in the Senate. James Capretta is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Mark takes calls on healthcare.


          The Cold War Kabuki   



Well, you all know what the big story was this past week. I wasn't going to post on it but enough people have asked and it seems germane to the ongoing Reality Show we're all unwitting (and unwilling) extras in. In case you've been on media blackout or a vision quest, here's a brief thumbnail sketch:
The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. 
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks, US officials said.
As it happens, the airstrikes apparently didn't even seem to have the desired deterrent effect. The air base was up and running soon after the strikes:
Syrian warplanes took off from the air base hit by US cruise missiles yesterday to carry out bombing raids on rebel-held areas, in a defiant show of strength. 
Just hours after the al-Shayrat airfield was bombed with 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from warships in the Mediterranean, aircraft struck targets in the eastern Homs countryside, according to a monitoring group. 
The airstrikes were carried out on Khan Sheikhoun - the same town Bashar al-Assad’s regime is accused of attacking with chemicals - and seven other towns around eastern Homs, some of which controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
This rebound seemed to catch the War Party off guard, since CNN reported on the same story but appeared to ascribe the airstrikes to phantom warplanes. I mean, it couldn't be the Syrians or the Russians, right?:
(CNN) New airstrikes targeted a town in Syria that was hit by a chemical attack earlier this week, activists said, less than a day after the US bombarded a Syrian air base to "send a message" to the Assad regime. 
It wasn't immediately clear who conducted the strikes on Khan Sheikhoun, which was hit on Friday and Saturday, though only Russian and Syrian regime aircraft have been bombing that area of rebel-held Idlib province.
CNN, who've been hammering Trump around the clock since he humiliated their network head in a post-election tantrum, suddenly changed their tune when he started raining bombs on Syria. Sam Kriss reports:
The media was kind to Trump’s attack on Syria. Every pompous outlet that has spent the last five months screaming incessantly about the threat to democracy, the inevitable deaths and the terror of wars, had nothing but applause as soon as the wars and the deaths actually got going. 
 A fleshy and dangerous idiot, a vulgarian, an imbecile – until those first perfect screaming shots of Tomahawk missiles being fired were broadcast – that’s our guy, you show them Donny! This is when, as Fareed Zakaria put it on CNN, Trump ‘became the president.’
The same mainstream media, which has become a hornet's hive of conspiracy theorizing since the election, was quick to shoot down any conspiracy theories about the Syria Bombshow.
A volley of US cruise missiles had barely been launched into Syria before the internet filled up with fact-free theories about the real reason for the international crisis.
A popular one on the right-most fringes: the US government actually carried out the chemical weapons massacre in Syria last week - a "false flag" to trick President Donald Trump into retaliating, thus entangling himself in a foreign war. 
A slightly more convoluted strain on the left: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia by provoking the missile strike.
Alt-left conspiracy theorists prefer the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the chemical weapons massacre to help Trump - distracting Americans from an investigation into Trump's campaign ties to Russia.
Ron Paul, whose son Rand is now a rising star in the Senate, was perhaps the most prominent public figure to cast shade on the Syria op:
“Before this episode of possible gas exposure and who did what, things were going along reasonably well for the conditions,” the former Texas congressman stated. “Trump said let the Syrians decide who should run their country, and peace talks were making out, and Al Qaeda and ISIS were on the run.” 
“It looks like, maybe, somebody didn’t like that so there had to be an episode, and the blame now is we can’t let that happen because it looks like it might benefit Assad.”
For his part, Doctor Bones speculates that the real mark for a possible elaborate sting wasn't Assad or Putin, but in fact another player altogether. The timing seems hard to argue with:
A gas attack launched by the fleeing Syrian rebels, a side quickly losing it’s CIA-sponsorship and well aware it’s continued health depends on American funds, sure has a shit-ton more to gain from wide swathes of civilians dying on camera. Even better if they die particularly gruesomely and in a way the rebels claim they couldn’t be responsible for despite being photographed with all the tech to do so. 
How does Trump’s seemingly pointless explosion-show play into this? The answer: perfectly...
Consider also that the Chinese President was in Mar-a-Largo when the strike was underway, that Trump not only told him it was going to happen but actually ate dinner with him as it went on and the event spirals into even greater significance. A show of force full of technical prowess in a contested warzone while the Russians stood back and watched sends a powerful message to a foreign leader currently dining in enemy territory.
Is this just swivel-eyed speculation? Is there any reason to believe this wasn't all some improbable coincidence, that Xi Jinping was indeed dining with Trump while the Bombshow began? Because if it's not a coincidence then it's one hell of a psyop; running a mindfuck on your most dangerous frenemy during a state visit. What's this all about then? Joseph Farrell reports:
While there have been a spate of articles recently about growing Russo-Chinese defense and security ties, matching their growing financial and economic ties, this one left me stunned, for there was a statement within it that caught my eye, and Mr. B's as well, and I'm sure the reader saw it as well. As one can imagine, this one fueled my "high octane speculation" mode to the nth degree. Here's the statement, and a bit of surrounding context:
Russia and China are tired of Washington's "defensive" military installations in their backyards — and they're already taking action. 
According to the Atlantic Council and other responsible thinkers, the Untied States reserves the right to park its missile shields anywhere it wants, whether it be in Europe, East Asia, or the dark side of the Moon.  
I guess we should have seen all this coming, no? Shortly before the Bombshow, Trump's top Praetorian removed Trump's assumed consigliere from the NSC:
President Trump on Wednesday removed controversial White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon from the National Security Council, part of a sweeping staff reshuffling that elevated military, intelligence and Cabinet officials to greater roles on the council and left Bannon less directly involved in shaping the administration’s day-to-day national security policy. 
The restructuring reflects the growing influence of national security adviser H.R. McMaster, an Army three-star general who took over the post after retired general Michael Flynn was ousted in February and who is increasingly asserting himself over the flow of national security information in the White House. 
Do yourself a favor and set a news alert for "McMaster." That's a name you're going to be hearing more of in the days ahead. Or you won't. Which is probably the more troubling scenario.

And with Bannon off the NSC there's apparently an effort to shuffle him off to some fat-salaried thinktank glue factory.  The not-news of Bannon's interest in The Fourth Coming was dragged out yet again, this time by The New York Times. But the article planted a helpful hint of why Bannon is on the elbow list and might be giving us a grim preview of the year ahead:
Bannon’s Views Can Be Traced to a Book That Warns, ‘Winter Is Coming’

WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon has read the book three times. He still keeps a copy of it — one that’s creased and copiously underlined — in a library with the rest of his favorites at his father’s house in Richmond, Va. 
The book, “The Fourth Turning,” a 1997 work by two amateur historians, Neil Howe and William Strauss, lays out a theory that American history unfurls in predictable, 80-year cycles of prosperity and catastrophe. And it foresees catastrophe right around the corner. 
It also leads to unavoidable questions about war and whether Mr. Bannon, who has recommended the book to countless friends and made a film about it in 2010, is resigned to catastrophic global conflict. He says he is not. 
And he remains unconvinced that the United States can effectively intervene in overseas conflicts like the one unfolding in Syria. As one of the voices in the administration who expressed skepticism about a military strike in response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack on its own citizens, Mr. Bannon insists he is no warmonger.
Well, there you have it.

Is the Syria proxy war threatening to heat up again, or is this all just another dance in the Cold War Kabuki? Have actions like the Bombshow  become like sacrificial actions in ongoing magical actions? Or is the real war is for your mind and is playing out in thousands of manufactured headlines, blizzards of 30 second videos with deceptive text crawls and the endless babbling of overpaid talking heads?

I feel stupid even asking the question.

Just in case you're worried that this is all leading to nukes raining down on American cities,  the cognitive warriors seem to be trying to defuse any expectations of impending Armageddon: 
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster says that while the U.S. would push for regime change in Syria, “We’re not the ones who are going to effect that change.” 
“What we’re saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions,” McMaster said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." “Russia should ask themselves, ‘What are we doing here?’ Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population and using the most heinous weapons available?’”
Translation: No way in Hell we have the readiness needed for a hot war with a military superpower.

And since the mindfuck is the mother's milk of Cog-War, the careful inoculation of mixed messages into the mediafeed becomes just as vital a weapon as a cruise missile. Scratch that- much, much more so.
Trump Administration Is Contradicting Itself On Regime Change In Syria 
The Trump administration appears divided on whether the U.S. is pursuing a policy of regime change in Syria, days after the first direct American military attack against the Syrian government. 
Thursday’s strike “was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. The goal of the attack was to send a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad and its ally Russia that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate the use of chemical weapons, he continued. “Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”
But United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said there can be no peace in Syria with Assad in power. “There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria.​”​
Though Haley stopped short of indicating the U.S. would take military action to overthrow the Syrian dictator, her comments reflect a sharp change from the administration’s previous position.
The difference here, of course, is that Tillerson sets and executes policy and Haley sits in a glorified debating society and blows smoke and fairy dust for a bunch of bored bureaucrats wishing they had their real government jobs back, the ones they enjoyed before being pushed upstairs to their present posts. The media only pays attention when bombs are falling.

It's all black magic, make no mistake about it. There are different terms and epithets for it all now,  but when you strip all the twenty-dollar words and the credentials and the technology away the intent and the effect is no different than a witch doctor's curse. 

William S. Burroughs understood this, since his uncle Ivy Lee was the creator of one of these modern strains of black magic, so-called "public relations." Burroughs considered his uncle a bonafide "evil genius." And Lee was a piker compared to the algorithm-fired masters of the dark arts striding the globe today.

Here's a story that probably won't pop up on your Facebook feed. Anyone paying attention to the Russia hacking story probably knows how incredibly weak the hacking evidence actually is,* but now Wikileaks is teasing out the Seth Rich mystery again.
‘Guccifer 2.0’ Chat With Nude Model Sparks New Conspiracy Theories About Murder of DNC’s Seth Rich 
New chat logs between alleged Democratic National Committee hacker Guccifer 2.0 and a Playboy centerfold model surfaced today via Wikileaks on Twitter, throwing more fuel on the conspiracy theories surrounding murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich. The Twitter conversation, conducted via direct messages, purports to reveal Rich as the primary leaker of the DNC e-mails that proved highly disruptive during the 2016 presidential election. 
In direct messages dated August 25, 2016, Guccifer 2.0 mentioned having a whistleblower at the DNC, and said he was looking for a “person of trust who can be a guarantee in case anything happens.”
When Young suggested trusting Julian Assange, Guccifer 2.0 called him “unsafe” and that he “may be connected with Russians” despite being his hero. 
“I’d like to find a journalist who can do an investigation and teel [sic] the real story of his life and death,” he said, and revealed that the whistleblower he was referring to was none other than a person named “Seth.” 
“I suppose u know who I’m talking about,” he said, adding that he felt sorry about the murdered DNC staffer’s parents and that he wished for journalists to uncover the truth of his murder.
  
Seth Rich, a 27-year-old mid-level DNC staffer, was shot and killed in the early morning of July 2016 in Washington DC, while he was walking home from a bar and talking with his girlfriend on his mobile phone. Rich’s killers left his watch and wallet untouched on his body. 
This wasn't floated by Alex Jones or David Icke, it popped up on Heat Street, which is owned by the Dow Jones Company and Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp. This story looks like it's going to grow some legs yet.

So are you sick of the Cog-War and the Cold War Kabuki yet? Tired of your social media hijacked by proxy warriors fighting battles for cliques within the Intelligence community? Burnt out on the whole Reality Show Presidency and its discontents altogether?

Start looking into ashrams in Sri Lanka, then. This machine is just getting warmed up. 




*Maybe some bright young spark should see if maybe the hacking an inside job by intel people who correctly judged a Trump White House would be easier to dominate than a bloated, top-heavy Clinton one. Just throwing that out there for giggles and grins.


          Spy vs Spy: Stuck in the Funhouse   

Funhouses are only fun when you can leave them. When the distorting mirror images become your new, day-to-day reality construct, then it's not so much fun anymore. 

I dreaded the 2016 Election because I had a very strong feeling that no matter who won we'd be plunged into a dystopian paradigm in which major power blocs would erupt into all-out warfare. And I sensed that neither Trump nor Clinton possessed the political skills or the communicative powers to keep the carnage fully out of our view. Or our path.


And I was right.


Trump's only been in office for a little over two months and I'm exhausted already. I'm certainly not alone in this. It all feels like a TV sitcom in its seventh season, well after the writers ran out of story ideas. The shark has been good and jumped. And the ratings (the approval ratings, in this case) are plunging too.


What is truly demoralizing though is the utter transparency of the secret war playing out, the seemingly endless spy vs spy thrust and counter-thrust, and the obvious deceptions. Even more so is the Animal Farm-like metamorphosis of the Democratic Party into a full-blown, funhouse mirror of McCarthy-era Republicans, but with Glenn Beck-worthy conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure.


I don't know about you but all of a sudden the world seems especially cold, hard, gray, harsh. Masks are coming off, velvet gloves tossed into wastebins. It doesn't seem to matter who wins the scorpion fight, you're still stuck with a scorpion.  

We can't call out the play-by-play because it's largely being acted out behind closed doors. But we can look at the collateral damage and make certain speculations. There's no doubt that it would all be just as bad-- probably worse-- if Hillary won. Even so, this all feels especially grating.

You've probably seen this story:
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington pizzeria that became the subject of a conspiracy theory about human trafficking last year. 
Pizza shop Comet Ping Pong was thrust into the spotlight last year after a gunman allegedly fired a shot inside the restaurant. The suspect said he was investigating the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta, were operating a child sex trafficking ring out of the restaurant. 
The theory, which became known as Pizzagate, had circulated among far-right conspiracy theory websites and social media accounts. 
“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones, who runs Infowars, said in a video. James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong. 
Jones said his website relied on reporters who are no longer employed by Infowars and that video reports about Pizzagate were removed from the website. He also invited Alefantis onto the show to discuss the incident.
It was preceded by this story:
FBI’S RUSSIA PROBE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE ‘PIZZAGATE’ THREATS 
According to McClatchy News, the FBI’s Russian-influence probe agents are exploring whether far-right news operations, including the pro-Donald Trump sites Breitbart News and Infowars, “took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives.”  Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son, a member of the Trump transition team, were among those who boosted the so-called “PizzaGate” pedophile conspiracy theory.
I doubt this will quell the fervor among the Pizzagaters on sites like 4chan and Voat. Given the suspicion many on the fringes regard Jones with it may in fact give the flagging movement a fresh jolt. Jones' apology may also have to do with the drive to purge YouTube of "extremist" content and the controversy over the use of advertising on videos corporate clients find objectionable. A World without Sin, as our Gordon might put it. 


Washington Post headline, pre-election.

So much for theories that the FBI was ready to make mass arrests of prominent Washington figures related to Pizzagate.  Has any "mass arrest" Internet story ever panned out?  

Maybe it has:
Donald Trump became president on Jan. 20. And in one short month, there were more than 1,500 arrests for sex crimes ranging from trafficking to pedophilia.  
Big deal? You bet. In all of 2014, there were fewer than 400 sex trafficking-related arrests, according to FBI crime statistics. Liz Crokin at TownHall.com has put together a great piece on the push by the Trump administration to crack down on sex crimes. And she notes that while "this should be one of the biggest stories in the national news... the mainstream media has barely, if at all, covered any of these mass pedophile arrests. This begs the question – why?
This may have nothing to do with Trump-- in fact, it's likely it doesn't-- since these kinds of actions are planned out months in advance. The arrests continue, in case you were wondering, with major busts going down on a near-weekly basis. Someone's cleaning house. 

For what it's worth, I always reckoned that Pizzagate was in fact cover/distraction for a more hidden struggle, one that would take place under the radar*. As I noted back in November:

No one is saying as much but this very much feels connected to a deeper, more covert war. 
Why would I say such a thing? Because at the same time the Pizzagate story went dark we've seen major strikes taken against international pedophilia, which actually is a global conspiracy, with its own networks, secret codes and moles within established centers of power such as schools, police departments and governments.  
With such combustible accusations-- and such potential for a scandal that could quickly spread out of control (ie., involve political figures you're not trying to destroy)-- you'd naturally expect the action to go dark and the fall guys to be placed pretty far down the foodchain. (Remember that a prior investigation bagged one of the most powerful people in Washington at one time, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert).†


"EVER WONDER WHAT IT'D BE LIKE TO DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?" 



It may be sheer coincidence, but James Alefantis' former partner suffered a major heart attack this week
Media Matters for America founder David Brock was rushed to a hospital on Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. 
According to a press release from MMA, the founder of the liberal media watchdog and analysis website was rushed to the hospital early Tuesday afternoon and received treatment.
Sure, it may be coincidence. But I couldn't help but remember this story, published soon after the election
Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us 
Democrats know they need someone to lead them out of the wilderness. But, they say, that someone is not David Brock.

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding ademoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.
 
"Disappear." Huh. 
Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause.
It's worth remembering that Breitbart.com Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack at the age of 43. A year before he'd posted a cryptic tweet that some have since linked to the Pizzagate imbroglio.  Just before his death he hyped some revelation about Barack Obama's past. 

A coroner in the office handling Breitbart's body subsequently died of arsenic poisoning. The day Breitbart's autopsy results were revealed, in fact.

COME BACK ROY COHN, ALL IS FORGIVEN


We also saw James Comey revive Russiagate, which had been flatlining after Vault 7. Any illusions among Trump fans that the FBI was secretly on their side were ground into powder, between this revelation and the Pizzagate conspiracy investigations. 

One can't help but wonder if the New Praetorians (I've noticed that the Praetorian meme has been picked up by more prominent commentators, but you heard it here first) are losing their last shred of patience with Donald Trump's shenanigans and are planning imminent regime change: 
WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump’s associates coordinated with Russian officials in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election, Director James Comey said Monday in an extraordinary public confirmation of a probe the president has refused to acknowledge, dismissed as fake news and blamed on Democrats. 
In a bruising five-hour session, the FBI director also knocked down Trump’s claim that his predecessor had wiretapped his New York skyscraper, an assertion that has distracted White House officials and frustrated fellow Republicans who acknowledge they’ve seen no evidence to support it.
How surreal is the world in which you know live in? So much so that mainstream political site The Hill is comparing the action in Washington to a Stanley Kubrick film, one which has become notorious for the conspiracy theories that have been projected onto it (and is well familiar to Synchronauts):
On the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Shining, Stephen King must be wondering if Washington is working on its own sequel. For the last couple months, Washington has been on edge, like we are all trapped in Overlook Hotel with every day bringing a new “jump scare,” often preceded by a telltale tweet. Indeed, a Twitter whistle has replaced suspenseful music to put the entire city on the edge of their seats. 
In this Shining sequel, however, people are sharply divided on who is the deranged ax-wielding villain in this lodge, the president or the press. Ironically, with the recent disclosure that some of the Trump campaign may indeed have been subject to surveillance, the president is looking more like Danny Torrence, a character dismissed for constantly muttering “redrum, redrum” until someone finally looked in a mirror at the reverse image to see the true message.
Yeah, I'm not really feeling that metaphor there, but whatever. It's been that kind of year.

Now the Internet is burning up with theories that disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has "turned" and is going to testify against the Trump Administration, or at least figures attached to it. 


It's hard to imagine a three-star general can be stupid enough to be guilty of things Flynn's been accused of but that may speak to a culture of impunity in Washington, in which your misdeeds are only punished if you get on the wrong side of the wrong people.

LIKE A BAD CYBERPUNK NOVEL


One wonders if the secret war has spread outside Washington. Car service giant Uber seems to be having a major run of rotten luck lately: 
Uber Technologies Inc. is suspending its self-driving car program after one of its autonomous vehicles was involved in a high-impact crash in Tempe, Arizona, the latest incident for a company reeling from multiple crises. 
In a photo posted on Twitter, one of Uber’s Volvo self-driving SUVs is pictured on its side next to another car with dents and smashed windows. An Uber spokeswoman confirmed the incident, and the veracity of the photo, and added that the ride-hailing company is suspending its autonomous tests in Arizona until it completes its investigation and pausing its Pittsburgh operations.

The incident also comes as Uber, and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, are currently under scrutiny because of a series of scandals. The ride-hailing company has been accused of operating a sexist workplace. This month, the New York Times reported that Uber used a tool called Greyball to help drivers evade government regulators and enforcement officials. Kalanick said he needed "leadership help" after Bloomberg published a video showing him arguing with an Uber driver.
So who did Kalanick piss off? 

Coincidentally- there's that word again- the crash comes soon after Wikileaks revealed that CIA hackers had the ability to override the computer systems in automobiles. From Mashable:

WikiLeaks has published a trove of files it says are linked to the CIA's hacking operations — which apparently includes efforts to hack into cars.  
The first in a series called "Vault 7," "Year Zero" supposedly comprises 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virginia.  
"Year Zero" details the CIA's malware arsenal and "zero day" exploits against Apple iPhones, Google's Android operating system, Microsoft Windows and even Samsung TVs.  
 According to a document from 2014, the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. 
Oh, that's reassuring. Speaking of control systems, apparently pimps are controlling prostitutes with RFID chips:
It turns out this 20-something woman was being pimped out by her boyfriend, forced to sell herself for sex and hand him the money. 
 “It was a small glass capsule with a little almost like a circuit board inside of it,” he said. “It's an RFID chip. It's used to tag cats and dogs. And someone had tagged her like an animal, like she was somebody's pet that they owned.” 
This is human trafficking. It’s a marginal issue here in the U.S. for most of us. Part of that is because the average person isn’t sure what human trafficking – or modern day slavery – actually means.
Technology is our friend, right? And now this: 
Turkish Hackers Threaten To Wipe Millions Of iPhones; Demand Ransom From Apple 
Today, courtesy of CIO, we learn that a group of hackers referring to themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family", has been in direct contact with Apple and is demanding a $150,000 ransom by April 7th or they will proceed to wipe as many as 600 million apple devices for which they allegedly have passwords. 
The group said via email that it has had a database of about 519 million iCloud credentials for some time, but did not attempt to sell it until now. The interest for such accounts on the black market has been low due to security measures Apple has put in place in recent years, it said.

Since announcing its plan to wipe devices associated with iCloud accounts, the group claimed that other hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials with them, putting the current number it holds at over 627 million.

According to the hackers, over 220 million of these credentials have been verified to work and provide access to iCloud accounts that don't have security measures like two-factor authentication turned on.
 
Of course, if credible, with an ask of just $150k, this is the most modest group of hackers we've ever come across.
Given the war that's erupted between the increasingly aggressive Turkish government and the EU, money may clearly not be the object here. Turkish PM Erdogan is clearly set on reconstructing the old Ottoman Empire and shivving Apple might just be part of the march.

Besides, Turkey is taking that recent coup attempt-- which is almost universally blamed on the CIA-- very personally.


Speaking of the EU, we've seen stories that Trump advisor Steve Bannon wants to dissolve the union. Which may be why Trump-adversary John McCain announced his unalloyed support for it- and the "New World Order" (his words, not mine):
The world "cries out for American and European leadership" through the EU and Nato, US senator John McCain said on Friday (24 March). 
In a "new world order under enormous strain" and in "the titanic struggle with forces of radicalism … we can't stand by and lament, we've got to be involved," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate who is now chairman of the armed services committee in the US Senate. 
Speaking at the Brussels Forum, a conference organised by the German Marshall Fund, a transatlantic think tank, he said that the EU and the US needed to develop "more cooperation, more connectivity". 
"I trust the EU," he said, defending an opposite view from that of US president Donald Trump, who said in January that the UK "was so smart in getting out" of the EU and that Nato was "obsolete". 
He said that the EU was "one of the most important alliances" for the US and that the EU and Nato were "the best two sums in history", which have maintained peace for the last 70 years. "We need to rely on Nato and have a Nato that adjusts to new challenges," he said.
Would McCain speak this way to a domestic audience? Of course not. Or maybe he would- I can't tell which way is up anymore. But either way it's good to know where he really stands.

Like McCain, China continues to sound a similar note of support for globalization, on which its very economic survival so desperately depends:
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told a gathering of Asian leaders that the world must commit to multilateral free trade under the World Trade Organization and needs to reform global economic governance. 
“The river of globalization and free trade will always move forward with unstoppable momentum to the vast ocean of the global economy,” Zhang said. China will remain a strong force in the world economy and for peace and stability, he said, adding that countries must respect one another’s core interests and refrain from undermining regional stability. 
I suppose this is why China is off the target list for our new Cold (?) Warriors.

I've resisted posting on all this because it's all so depressing. I've actually written a few pieces on this chicanery that I ended up roundfiling. But I suppose I just wanted to go on the record about all this skullduggery, for posterity's sake.



UPDATE: Sex trafficking arrests and trials continue to proliferate. Most recent bust, an international ring in Minnesota. There is way too much activity going down in too short a time for this to be spontaneous.


* Which is exactly why I refrained from commenting on it here for the most part, instead noting that it had become a kind of memetic virus in much the same way that the Franklin/Boy's Town scandal had in the 90s. (Note that prior to the election-- and Pizzagate-- Trump nemesis the Washington Post was all over the issue of sex trafficking in the nation's capital). 

† The ongoing legal and police actions coinciding with the moves to shut down the Pizzagate fringes on the Web seem like the exact kind of action one would expect if there were a serious operation at work. Shutting down the Internet chatter makes perfect sense in this context because it can only complicate cases made by prosecutors. 
          Helen Gahagan Douglas: She Who Must Be Waylaid   
“Helen Gahagan Douglas … had not the slightest interest in politics until the late 1930s. Her conversion was as dramatic as a first-act curtain in the theater.”
  Eleanor Roosevelt

Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas, a former movie star and opera singer, was a principled beacon of liberal light following the death of FDR.
She had once played She Who Must Be Obeyed, and when she ran for Senate in California, Congressman Richard Nixon regarded her as She Who Must Be Waylaid.
---
Helen Gahagan Douglas
“While sitting in a Viennese coffeehouse with an English music critic who was a friend of several colleagues, the two discussed her new contract,” wrote Sally Denton in The Pink Lady: The Many Lives of Helen Gahagan Douglas. “Suddenly, the man leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, ‘Of course, Miss Gahagan, you are pure Aryan?’
“Helen felt sick to her stomach as the man attempted to recruit her to the Nazi cause. ‘Aryans such as we,’ he told her, ‘(have) a duty to defend the superior race against Jews.’ At first she couldn’t speak. Until that moment the perspective of Jews in the world was a purely abstract notion. Now, as the Englishman spouted the familiar rantings of Hitler and Goebbels while asking her to enlist the support of fellow Nazi sympathizers in America, she felt forever changed. Her ‘Irish blood at the boiling point,’ she tore up the contract and left for home.”
It didn’t help the English critic’s case that her husband, the film actor Melvyn Douglas, was a Jew.
---
But it was the Dust Bowl that really blew Helen Gahagan Douglas into politics.
Once upon a time, specifically in California during the Dust Bowl 1930s, those much-despised “illegal aliens” were American citizens who’d fled West.
“Confined to filthy camps, thousands of starving families were ‘herded about like animals,’ living without toilet or showers, while local officials and growers fought to keep the federal government from supplying the migrants with food and medical supplies, fearing that they would form permanent communities, join unions and, most significant, interfere with the cheap Mexican laborers they were shuttling across the border and paying slave wages,” wrote Denton.
 “Importing labor was far cheaper than establishing schools and health-care clinics for American migrant workers, so the growers used every method possible, including force, to get the migrants to move on.
“Helen and Melvyn had attended dinner parties at which the subject of the ‘Okies’ was raised and they were frequently appalled at the lack of compassion shown by many of their peers. They ‘listened with astonishment to people making comfortable statements about how the situation was exaggerated or that the migrants should stop being so lazy and dirty.’”
---
Guided by Eleanor Roosevelt, she became more involved in politics even as she became less involved in her marriage. After Melvyn started a serious affair with a co-star, they separated, but would never divorce.
“I suppose it is commonplace that most long-time couples divide areas of emotional response, even as they share responsibilities and material goods,” Melvyn said years later. “Certainly our friends, the Roosevelts, had done something like that.”
Rising in politics, Helen had few illusions about it. “I was raised in a household of dominating men, and I learned early that men guard their authority over women jealously,” Helen said. “As for politics, they sincerely believe public life to be a male bailiwick. They reason that men have been running the country for the past two hundred years and are meant to do so for centuries to come. In short, men would never share power with women willingly. If we wanted it, we would have to take it.”
---
Fighting a conservative tide to keep the liberal Henry Wallace vice president in 1944, Douglas gave an eloquent speech at the Democratic National Convention.
“The Democratic party is the true conservative party,” she said. “We have conserved hope and ambition in the hearts of our people. We are the conservative party. We have conserved the skills of their hands. We have husbanded our natural resources. We have saved millions of homes and farms from foreclosure and conserved the family stake in democracy.
“We have rescued banks and trust companies, insured crops and people's savings. We have built schools. We have checked the flooding rivers and turned them into power.
“We have begun a program to free men and women from the constant nagging fear of unemployment, sickness, accident—and the dread of insecure old age. We have turned a once isolated, flood-ravished, poverty-stricken valley, the home of four and a half million people, into what is now a productive, happy place to live—the Tennessee River Valley. We have replanted the forest, re-fertilized the soil. Ours is the conservative party.
“We have guarded children, protected them by labor laws, planned school-lunch programs, provided clinics. Ours is the conservative party. Ours is the party that has created laws which have given dignity and protection to the working men and women of this country. Ours is the party that has made the individual aware of the need for his participation in a true democracy. We are the conservative party.
“We have conserved the people's faith in a people's government—democracy.”
---
Elected to Congress in 1944, Douglas was often compared to her glamorous right-wing counterpart there, Clare Booth Luce, the playwright and wife of Time Inc. founder Henry Luce.
“Driving cross-country with her secretary Evie Chavoor, and a friend, Jarmila Marton, having decided to make the move to Washington by automobile, the women tuned the radio to a morning news broadcast,” Denton wrote. “They listened with amusement to the announcement that Helen had defeated Luce as one of the 10 best-dressed women in public life.
“The rookie congresswoman had broken a cap on her front tooth, leaving a gap and stump when she opened her mouth to smile. Evie ‘turned around and looked at Helen, and there she was in the back seat with her terrible sloppy pants on … huddled in a blanket, her hair all streaming down.’ The women howled with laughter, wishing a photographer could see her in such a state.”
Douglas understood, though, that the trivial focus on women’s looks was a means of undermining their power. “Congresswomen’s ideas should rate above their clothes and looks,” she said. “Why this emphasis on the sexes anyway, in a serious thing like government?”
“I never felt I left the stage,” Douglas said, and her clipped, powerful, theatrically trained voice was a great asset in politics.
But there was nothing phony about her, nothing fake. She was a proponent of what philosophers call “virtue ethics,” giving a fair summary of it in this quote: “Character isn’t inherited. One builds it daily by the way one thinks and acts, thought by thought, action by action. If one lets fear or hate or anger take possession of the mind, they become self-forged chains.”
---
The liberal and idealistic Douglas was waylaid by the rising, conniving and unprincipled Nixon, sounding an ugly theme that has echoed in American politics right into the 21stcentury.
Nixon’s dirty tactics — among them smearing Douglas as a Communist and sponsoring calls to ask voters if they were aware that her movie star husband was “a Jew” — earned him the apt, lifelong nickname Tricky Dick. But Douglas was also hampered by her own lofty idealism and California’s Chinatown-like civic corruption. And the times were against her, the 1950 election coinciding with both the rise of McCarthyism and the height of the Korean war.
“There was the United States fighting communism and I was the person who said we should limit the power of the military and try to disarm the world and get along with Russia,” Douglas said.
“The worst moment, a sight I couldn’t shake, was when children picked up rocks and threw them at my car, at me. I knew that in order to survive I would have to accept the rocks and the Nixon campaign, shrug them off and move on. I wondered if I would be able to do it.”
She was, finding herself exhausted but strangely calm after Nixon’s huge victory. “I was so pleased that I had escaped the terrible burden of hating Richard Nixon that I was almost elated,” she said.
Nixon, in later years, at least feigned regret over his behavior in the campaign. “Years later, asked by British publisher David Astor to explain his campaign tactics, Nixon reportedly ‘cast down his eyes with a look of modest contrition’ and explained, ‘I want you to remember that I was a very young man,’” wrote Anthony Summers in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon. “In 1950, (Nixon) was 37 and a veteran of four years in the House of Representatives.”
Douglas summed it up simply: “There’s not much to say about the 1950 campaign, except that a man ran for Senate who wanted to get there, and didn’t care how he did it.”
After Nixon revealed his true character to the world in Watergate, and was driven from office in shame, Douglas had the last laugh. But she didn’t laugh. She mourned.
“If the national security is involved, anything goes,” she said in 1973. “There are no rules. There are people so lacking in roots about what is proper and improper that they don’t know there’s anything wrong in breaking into the headquarters of the opposition party.”
After Nixon’s resignation, a bumper sticker started appearing on vehicles throughout California: “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Helen Gahagan Douglas.”
Her secretary Nan Stevens said, “People rather expected that she would be gloating over Richard Nixon finally being found out, but she was only said. She thought it terrible for the country and for America’s reputation abroad. I know that makes her sound almost too good to be true, but she was good. I’m not saying Helen didn’t have feet of clay. But you had to look awfully hard to find her tiny clay feet.”
---
Douglas and her husband often led separate lives. She had an affair with, among others, Lyndon Baines Johnson, but became estranged from with him during his presidency over her support for disarmament and opposition to the escalating Vietnam War.
But Douglas and Melvyn were always good friends, and he made an impassioned radio speech for her during her doomed Senate campaign. “It is easier — as a matter of fact it is the easiest thing in the world — to call people of good will dirty names, to call them Communists,” he said.

Melvyn was at her side when she died of cancer in 1980, and he wrote, “She was entranced always by the light. In every house we ever occupied, she wanted the windows to be wider. She always thought no room could have too many windows … She was always saying, ‘Look at the light! Isn’t it beautiful? Shewas the light. And she was beautiful.’”

          Veterans’ groups voice concerns over GOP health care bill   
Major veterans' organizations are voicing concerns about a Senate GOP bill to repeal the nation's health care law, fearing the impact of rising insurance costs and worried the underfunded Department of Veterans Affairs won't be able to fill the coverage gap.
          Veterans are worried Senate Medicaid cuts will strip them of healthcare   
Veterans and advocacy groups across the country are blasting the Senate’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, fearing that the cuts to Medicaid will impact hundreds of thousands of former soldiers across the country.
          Sen. Pat Roberts still defends GOP health plan; health care advocates say it's terrible for Kansas    
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said the bill would have been good for Kansas and that the Senate needs to act soon, "to prepare for Obamacare's inevitable collapse." Health care advocates in Kansas strongly disagreed with his statement.
          February 15th with Warlock Corvis Nocturnum and Richard Senate   
G&D 02-15-09 Warlock Corvis Nocturnum Born in May of 1971, great-grandson of a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and Freemason, Corvis Nocturnum began his foray into the dark and decadent world of professional art in the year 2000 as Darkartist V. Heavily influenced by artists such as Brom, Joseph Vargo, Luis Royo […]
          Republican Incumbent Michael Lee Wins North Carolina Senate District 9   
After a fiercely competitive race with numerous attack ads against both candidates, Republican incumbent Michael Lee has won North Carolina’s District 9 Senate seat. This district covers most of New Hanover County, with the exception of a small patch in downtown Wilmington. In his second term, he wants to tackle economic development and education. Michael Lee says education dovetails with job creation because of workforce development. He wants to reach out to innovative teachers for new ideas that can be implemented throughout the state. In particular, he wants to expand lab schools, which are elementary and secondary schools operated within a university or college. Such schools both help train future teachers and allow for educational experimentation: "So we’ve already tried to do some of those things with lab schools, like we’re doing with UNCW and others. I think we can also look into lab school concepts within the community college system. I really think that we need to integrate,
          Senator Michael Lee (R) Says North Carolina Is Still Playing Catch-Up with Teacher Pay   
Republican Senator Michael Lee is running for a second term representing North Carolina’s Senate District 9. Though the legislature approved a 4% increase in teacher pay this past session, Lee says the state still has a long way to go. Three years ago, North Carolina was ranked 47th in the nation for teacher pay. Now the state has risen to 41st, according to the National Education Association. The state legislature projects that average teacher pay will rise to fifty thousand dollars, but that number won’t be confirmed until at least December. And it relies on low teacher turnover, which might not happen, according to fact-checking by WRAL. If that average salary checks out, that’s still eight thousand less than the national average. Here’s Senator Michael Lee: "Make no mistake, we are nowhere near where we need to be, but the average is up more than 20% since 2013-2014. And I know everyone is not seeing that because there are different places in the pay scale where the increases have
          NC Senate's Budget Proposal Moves to Defund High School Driver's Education   
As the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes this week, one budget item remains on the chopping block: high school driver’s education. The Senate’s current budget proposal would eliminate driver’s education classes as a learner’s permit requirement. Senate Republicans say the driver’s education isn’t working because roughly half of students fail the Department of Motor Vehicle’s license test. That’s statistic comes from a report by the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division. But that figure is an average from the past six years. Looking at the statistical trend, the failure rate steadily declined from 59 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2013. Senator Michael Lee says the Senate wants the State Board of Community Colleges to develop a plan to take over the role of driver’s education: "That may involve a variety of different things. It could mean that they offer courses, it could mean that they have online courses, it could mean that they have satellite courses. I’m not really
          Michael Lee Keeps State Senate District 9 in Republican Hands, Beating Redenbaugh by Nearly 11%   
With an unpopular Democratic president in his second-term, Election Day saw the predictable Republican sweep in southeastern North Carolina.
          NC Senate Candidates Debate the 2013 Mobility Formula   
Economic development experts say aging transportation systems are holding back growth in southeastern North Carolina. The candidates for North Carolina’s Senate District 9, which encompasses most of New Hanover County, differ on whether the Mobility Formula is fair. Republican Michael Lee and Democrat Elizabeth Redenbaugh squared off during a recent Power Breakfast regarding the Department of Transportation’s Mobility Formula. Governor McCrory introduced the Formula last year as a means to align available funding with the greatest transportation needs. Michael Lee, appointed in August to serve out the remainder of Senator Thom Goolsby’s term, is now running as the incumbent for Senate District 9. He says the Mobility Formula provides an objective basis to fund transportation projects. "What we had before the Mobility Formula were politicians making political decisions and giving favors to have infrastructure put in certain areas to benefit certain constituents. And I for one want to
          Candidate Profile: Michael Lee (R), NC Senate, District 9   
Wilmington lawyer Michael Lee is vying for a seat in state Senate District 9—with hearty endorsement from incumbent Senator Thom Goolsby. Lee, a fellow Republican, has twice previously run for the same seat--to Julia Boseman in 2008, and to Goolsby in the 2010 primary. While Lee has never won an elected position, he serves on the Port Authority Board, as well as the state Department of Transportation’s board. Lee views job growth, education reform and a balanced budget as integrated pursuits. WHQR's Katie O'Reilly: Tell me about your top three priorities in office. Michal Lee: I think economic development, jobs, and education, and they all kind of interrelate with each other. Jobs in New Hanover County, the state of North Carolina, really anywhere, rely upon a strong education system—not just K-12, but also our community college system and our university system. So that is really how it relates into jobs and economic development, in the way that we not only educate our children, so
          As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build   

While he presses Republicans to get behind his bill for undoing Obamacare, Senator Mitch McConnell is also raising the specter of bringing Democrats into Senate health care talks. Source link

link: As Affordable Care Act Repeal Teeters, Prospects for Bipartisanship Build


          Russian Election Meddling in Europe Growing Bolder, Officials Say – Morning Consult   

Morning Consult Russian Election Meddling in Europe Growing Bolder, Officials SayMorning ConsultRussian hacking efforts leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election were part of a broader influence campaign aimed at countries across Europe and the Balkans, meant to disrupt pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization candidates and parties …Senate Intel asks 21 states to publicize election…

link: Russian Election Meddling in Europe Growing Bolder, Officials Say – Morning Consult


          Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcare – The Hill (blog)   

The Hill (blog) Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcareThe Hill (blog)Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is asking President Trump to meet with Democrats to discuss a bipartisan deal on healthcare. “President Trump, I challenge you to invite us, all 100 of us, Republican and Democrat, to Blair House to …Hello, is anybody…

link: Schumer to Trump: Meet with Democrats on healthcare – The Hill (blog)


          What's Next For the Senate GOP Health Care Bill?   

Senate Republicans are regrouping on health care legislation. Here’s what you need to know about what comes next. Source link

link: What's Next For the Senate GOP Health Care Bill?


          Keeping Elections Safe From Hackers – Chicago Tonight | WTTW   

Chicago Tonight | WTTW Keeping Elections Safe From HackersChicago Tonight | WTTWAmid the array of investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 election, the director of the Illinois State Board of Elections testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Illinois was the target of a hack that exposed … Source link

link: Keeping Elections Safe From Hackers – Chicago Tonight | WTTW


          W.Va. Sen. Capito’s difficult journey to ‘no’   

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., announced Tuesday she was against the current version of the Senate GOP health care bill. In an exchange that was filmed by someone else in the room and later posted on Facebook , where it has been viewed more than 5 million times, Hill showed the senator photos of Amy…

link: W.Va. Sen. Capito’s difficult journey to ‘no’


          Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast track – Politico   

Politico Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast trackPoliticoThe Senate panel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election aims to finish its work by the end of this year and plans to double the number of witness interviews to nearly 90 before lawmakers break for the August recess, the Republican leader of … and more »…

link: Senate Intel putting Russia probe on fast track – Politico


          Burr: Senate Intel Has 'Aggressive' Schedule to Finish Russia Probe   
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has an aggressive timeline for the Senate panel to finish its investigation into the Russia probe, Politico reports.
          Schumer Slammed for Blocking Senate Hearing on Obama 'Unmasking'   
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley Wednesday ripped Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer after using a rarely used procedural tool to block his panel from holding a classified hearing with top intelligence officials.
          Schumer to Trump: Get Dems Involved in Fixing Healthcare   
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers to work with Democrats in fixing healthcare, the Washington Examiner reported.
          Blackburn: House GOP Delivered 'Great Foundation' on Healthcare    
House Republicans are disappointed that their counterparts in the Senate did not move forward with a vote on their healthcare bill, as they were sent "a great foundation to work from," Rep. Marsha Blackburn said Wednesday.
          Mexican Government Invests In Support For Unauthorized Immigrants Living In Texas   
From Texas Standard: Senate Bill 4, known as the “show me your papers” law to its opponents, currently faces a challenge in a San Antonio federal court . If the law takes effect, police in Texas will be able to ask people they stop about their immigration status.
          Update News: Friday, December 14, 2012   
In Friday’s news: Crews woke up early in Nome to put out a fire; Federal biologist convinced Alaska has seen start of debris washing ashore from 2011 tsunami in Japan; Senate green lighting disaster relief bill to floor; Three local students earned first nursing degrees ever in Nome; Airborne windmills may be coming to Alaska.
          With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for substantial changes, rather than mere tinkering, to a major healthcare bill if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law.

          Comment on Senate Dear Appropriator campaign by the numbers by Lisa Lindle   
Thanks for asking, Sue! There has been a little confusion about another IMLS letter addressing museum funding but NOT LSTA. Some Members of Congress appear to have thought both letters were related to same issue, though we tried repeatedly to make sure they understood the difference. It appears that this is the case here where the Senator thought he had all of IMLS covered. We are reaching out to offices that signed the Museums letter but not the LSTA letter and urge them to sign the LSTA letter next year. We made excellent progress this year and hope to build on that next year with more signatures.
          Comment on Senate Dear Appropriator campaign by the numbers by Sue Sherif   
Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) sent me a letter on 5/31 claiming that he signed the Dear Appropriator letter, but I do not see his name on the list. I may be confused because the wording is a bit strange: "This budget request from the White House is a first step and a general blueprint for where our country should be headed: increased funding for our national defense and homeland security, and cuts to agencies that have stifled economic growth over the last eight years. However, some of the specific cuts in this initial budget disproportionately target rural economies across our country, including in Alaska, and some don’t align with the commitments made by members of the Trump administration during their confirmation process and hearings. This is why I signed the letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to support robust funding for the IMLS Office of Museum Services for FY18." Did he end up supporting LSTA funding? Can someone in the Washington Office clarify?
          Cullerton to Rauner: Don’t give up on a deal   
* From the Senate President’s office… With time counting down to the end of the state’s budget year, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton urged the governor to use the coming days to reach an agreement. The following comment is in response to the governor already talking about ordering more Special Sessions beyond Friday, June 30 and [...]
          *** UPDATED x1 *** Rumor patrol: Dumpster edition   
* I received this photo earlier today… * Along with this text message… The Senate janitors told me that they have to take the trash to the Stratton now because the dumpsters were just removed because state didn’t pay? Might want to check I’ve since seen some tweets and Facebook posts about it. * So, [...]
          How the Student Loan Industry Is Helping Trump Destroy American Democracy   
Student loan servicers are engaged in economic terrorism, and DeVos is only making it worse.

Most of the discussion about student debt in the United States has centered on its excessiveness, the negative impact it has on home-buying for the next generation, various refinancing schemes, and (for the grossly uninformed) how borrowers simply need to “pay what they owe.” However, the untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed not only to redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole.

Up until her confirmation as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos had financial ties to a large student loan servicer in contract negotiations with the Department of Education. PRWatch reported in January that one of the firms DeVos divested from, LMF WF Portfolio, helped finance a $147 million loan to a student debt collection agency called Performant, which had more than 346 complaints brought against it with the Better Business Bureau. The student loan industry is said to be worth $1.3 trillion in total debt owed according to Forbes. While some might chalk this up to successful business management, it’s important to evaluate just exactly how the student loan industry works.

Contrary to what most students believe, many loans supposedly from the U.S. Department of Education are actually owned by big private banks. This acquisition of federal student loans by big banks was first introduced by the Federal Reserve in November of 2008, in which student loans, along with other forms of debt, are bundled and re-sold to banks as asset-backed securities (ABS). A few months later, with the blessing of former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, this program was dramatically expanded to include more than $1 trillion in collateralized debt. This means that for many borrowers, they're being jerked around by private loans deliberately dressed up in U.S. Department of Education attire.

Student Loan Servicers Are Engaging in Economic Terrorism

In a lecture delivered at Carleton University in Ottawa 2011, famed MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky argued that the American student debt system fosters fear and insecurity among people who, burdened by financial stress, anxious for their jobs or stuck in low-paying jobs, are afraid to question or challenge the system.

"When you trap people in a system of debt, they can't afford the time to think," Chomsky said.

One indebted borrower, Denise, whose fiancee, Kevin, spoke to AlterNet on condition of anonymity, is living proof of the dilemma Chomsky presented.

"I’ve wanted to marry Denise for years now," Kevin said. "But after seeing what she’s been put through with these student loan companies, I honestly don't want to risk having a bunch of crooks stealing my paycheck or my tax refund."

According to Kevin, the student debt Denise acquired for four years of higher education totaled approximately $35,000. Under the management of student loan servicer Navient (which broke off from Sallie Mae), her student loan debt quickly swelled to more than $75,000 in less than 10 years following her graduation from the University of Arizona. According to Kevin, loan fees and high interest rates quickly snowballed as a penalty for Denise not having enough money. (Multiple requests to reach Navient executives by phone or email were not returned.)

“The monthly payment they demanded was three times what Denise paid for her rent. She would send what she could afford, but it would end up being a fraction of the penalty fee they’d add to her loan balance for not having enough money to pay. They would then charge her interest on the penalty fee as though it were money she actually received for school," Kevin said.

Kevin’s account of what happened to Denise could be happening to millions of other distressed borrowers. A March 20 report from Bloomberg detailed how Secretary DeVos is now green-lighting punishing new fees on student borrowers even if they agree to make good on their outstanding debt. In a memo to the student loan industry, DeVos’ agency is allowing companies to charge struggling borrowers as much as 16 percent more of a debtor’s total loan balance in additional fees.

“It’s a con game that caused Denise so much stress that it began affecting her health and even made her fantasize about taking her own life as a means of getting out from crippling debt,” Kevin said. “These companies use the authority of the government to extort money from people who took out loans they thought were from the government and not just some crooked bank.”

In some instances, the tax refunds Denise counted on each year would be confiscated as penalty for not having enough money to pay her loans. According to Kevin, Denise earned a social sciences degree with the specific intent of pursuing a career that involved helping people and supporting positive change in society.

“Instead of doing that good work, she was forced to cling to whatever low-wage position she could find,” Kevin continued. “Even after I used my savings to help pay off the remainder of her student debt, the loan servicer, Navient, kept refusing to credit her account for the payment and continues to damage her credit.”

“It has taken such a huge toll on us,” he added. "I guess now we’ll have to gather more money to file a lawsuit to get them to acknowledge that they received payment in full. In the meantime, they can still take her tax refunds even though she doesn’t owe them money anymore.”

“This should be criminal. They’re just awful, awful human beings,” Kevin said.

Ironically, the Federal Student Loan Program was intended to make higher education affordable for students and families who lack the ability to pursue higher education without funding support. With the insertion of predatory banks and student loan shark servicer companies like Navient, Strada Education Network (formerly known as USA Funds), and others, the soul of the Federal Student Loan Program has shifted from that of opportunity and advancement to profit and subjugation.

Recently, Secretary DeVos announced that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness agreements the Department of Education made with borrowers who agreed to work in the public service field for at least 10 years might not be honored. The New York Times reported in March that students who signed up when the program began in 2007 may now be on the hook for those loans after all. A recent legal filing from the Department of Education argues that FedLoan Servicing's approval letters for the loan forgiveness program are non-binding and can be rescinded at any time.

This means borrowers, who chose professions in public service that are routinely paid less than those with jobs in other sectors, could now not only have forgone a much higher salary for over a decade, but could also find themselves on the hook for loans that the Department of Education agreed to forgive in exchange for their service.

Denise is not alone—the New York Fed reported earlier this year that 44 percent of student loan borrowers are underemployed. This means seemingly benign decisions when it comes to student loan policy ensure that a vast net of stress, fear, and insecurity is cast upon an entire generation. The lasting impact will, by default, stifle and root out any inclinations of challenge to the current political and economic system. In this way, the student loan industry is suppressing resistance to societal change by poor Americans, ensuring that whatever steps are taken in the name of neoliberalism to tighten the corporate grip on American society will be met with little to no resistance.

Who Has the Moral High Ground?

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a provision requiring already cash-strapped student loan borrowers to pay higher monthly fees on income-based repayment plans. While there is no evidence showing how an increase in payment requirements is needed for an already grossly lucrative industry, the Trump budget prioritized steep cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security and Disability Insurance, while also raising monthly payments for student loan borrowers. The combination of these two policies is a crushing blow for underemployed student debtors.

The Republican Party often campaigns on being the morally superior party based on its stance on issues like abortion and contraception. However, the student loan industry’s pillaging of the next generation of Americans has been met with deafening silence by the GOP. One would think that a majority in the House, the Senate and control of the White House would motivate the GOP to address an issue that affects 44 million Americans, but instead, Republicans choose to look the other way.

Democrats aren't entirely blameless in the student loan debacle. While a recent effort to address the greed and usurious practices of the student loan industry was championed by progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), other neoliberal Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) have joined the GOP's morality farce by teaming up with the private sector to ransack public schools and gut teacher’s unions in the name of “school choice” and “teacher accountability.”

If Republicans and Democrats alike hope to hold on to any credibility when it comes to ethics, they must take steps to address the student loan industry in favor of the hardworking Americans who put them in office, not their corporate masters.

 

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          GOP senators aim to get amended #Health bill to CBO by Friday   
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          Accelerating the Road to Change   
There is consensus that the Canadian health system needs to be reformed and that we are failing to achieve this objective (Romanow 2002; The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs Science and Technology 2002; Harvey et al. 2013; Lewis 2015). The authors provide a refreshing perspective on how this could be accomplished: a new model for conditional federal investment that is linked to quality, efficiency and outcomes; incentives for improvement that don't invoke dysfunctional competition; and a national system of outcome measurement. It is a well-reasoned and thoughtful set of solutions that could fit with the complex multi-jurisdictional character of Canadian healthcare. The key will be how to get there.
          McCain Will Push For Ground Troops In Iraq, Syria If GOP Wins The Senate   
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          Microsoft exploits tax loopholes to dodge paying income taxes   

Microsoft, the software titan familiar to most Americans, has benefited handsomely from using loopholes in the federal tax code to avoid paying its fair share of corporate income taxes. The corporation has avoided paying $4.5 billion in U.S. income taxes in recent years, according to evidence presented by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). ...

The post Microsoft exploits tax loopholes to dodge paying income taxes appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          U.S. Senate bill would require online retailers to collect sales taxes   

Today the United States Senate is scheduled to debate and possibly vote on a bill titled the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, which would authorize states to require businesses to collect state and local taxes for products sold via the internet. Currently, states can only require retailers to collect sales taxes if a respective business ...

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          Corporate Income Tax Cuts Would Harm, Not Help State’s Economy   

North Carolina lawmakers are barking up the wrong tree when they claim that corporate tax cuts, such as those proposed in the state Senate, will spur job creation and economic growth. In reality, those tax cuts will do more harm than good, in both the short- and long-term. Every dollar that Senate Bill 677 would ...

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          Gee, thanks Senator!   

The Commerce Committee of the North Carolina Senate just sent out its offical notice for a meeting that will convene tomorrow morning at 11:00 at the General Assembly. Mind you. this is a committee that has not met in months and that currently has 36 bills assigned to it. Sounds like a meeting that the chairman, ...

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          Corporate interests pushing Hagan to cut unemployment benefits?   

Updated at 2:45 pm — see below… The debate in Washington over the extension of critical unemployment insurance benefits appears to have taken a  troubling (if sadly predictable) turn. According to folks “in the know” in DC, the business lobby is pushing members of the Senate, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, to endorse a proposal that would make it possible for ...

The post Corporate interests pushing Hagan to cut unemployment benefits? appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          New Report Further Undermines Already-Weak Case for Corporate Tax Amnesty on Offshore Profits   

The US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a new report this week confirming that a proposed tax amnesty for offshore corporate profits would repeat an “embarrassing failure” by providing a windfall to multinational corporations while doing little to create jobs. What the new report indicates is that a substantial portion of multinational corporations’ offshore ...

The post New Report Further Undermines Already-Weak Case for Corporate Tax Amnesty on Offshore Profits appeared first on The Progressive Pulse.


          Mooneyham on Bill Before Senate This Morning: “A Green Light to Tax Dodges”   

In a column in Monday’s Afternoon Insider, journalist Scott Mooneyham blasted a bill set to come to the Senate floor this morning as “giving multi-state corporations a green light to engage in the kind of creative accounting that state tax officials have been fighting for a couple of decades.”  The Progressive Pulse has also written ...

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          Michigan Senate votes to increase motorcycle fees   
Michigan last year increased penalties for operating a motorcycle without the proper safety endorsement.
          Vice President Pence Damages His Reputation in Conveying False Narrative About Comey Firing   
Probably no one has done a better job of remaining unscathed by association with the administration of Donald Trump than Vice President Mike Pence.  In that capacity, Pence has acquitted himself quite well in the aftermath of a rocky term as Indiana Governor.

That all changed with the Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, Pence and other Trump spokespeople went out to spread the narrative that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to fire Comey because of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.    Pence's mission was to convey that message to
members of Congress.

The problem was the Trump-Comey talking points were not true.   Journalists began digging and found that the Comey firing was because of every increasing Trumpian furor over the continued Russian investigation led by Comey.  Indeed, Comey had just requested it be expanded, with additional financial and personnel resources devoted to the investigation. The Rosenstein memo turned out to be after-the-fact cover for the decision.

The problem for Pence is that he was in the meeting during which Trump announced his plan to fire Comey, a meeting at which Trump requested Rosenstein write a memo to offer a false motive for his action.  So when Pence was on Capitol Hill he was knowingly offering a lie about how President Trump arrived at his decision.  The White House has since admitted the original tale spun by the Trump spokespeople, including Pence, wasn't true.

Pence's loss of credibility is a most unfortunate development.  I would rate the odds better than 50-50 he will be President before the official end of Trump's term and that he will lead the Republican ticket in 2020. His being damaged by his actions as Vice President further hurt GOP efforts to keep control of the White House and the Senate.

As far as the U.S. House, that most likely be won by the Democrats in 2018.  A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday showed that Americans by a 54-38 margin Americans want Democrats to win control of the U.S. House in 2018.  That 16 point spread is by far the widest margin ever measured on that question.
          Governor May Consider Imposing Tolls on Indiana Roads   
WIBC reports:
Tolls are in and cigarette taxes are out if Governor Holcomb gets his way in a final road funding bill. 
Gov. Eric Holcomb
Holcomb is offering his most specific ideas so far on the final shape of a road funding plan. He says the cost of building and maintaining roads should fall on those who drive on them, and says provisions in both the House and Senate bills calling for the state to apply for federal tolling approval probably have to be part of a final plan. 
Neither the House nor the Senate package reaches the one-point-two-billion dollars a year the state says it needs in order to fully fund roads, but Holcomb says their combinations of gas taxes and tire and vehicle fees would be enough to pay for road maintenance for the next 20 years. He says in six or seven years, the state will have to take "a hard look" at imposing tolls to raise money for new construction. But he says he doesn't want tolls on urban bypasses -- he's thinking more of truckers going state line to state line.
Hopefully the legislature and the Governor will come to their collective senses and not inflict toll roads on Hoosiers.  I'm confident that most drivers loathe tolls and would rather pay for roads through taxes.   Personally I cannot imagine ever voting for a politician who imposed tolls on Indiana highways.

          Trump Administration Vows to Crack Down on Pot, Enthusiastically Embraces Other Failed Criminal Justice Policies   
The Hill reports:
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday suggested the Trump administration will step up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana.  
“I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement,” Spicer said, while adding the exact policy is “a question for the Department of Justice.” 
It’s the latest sign President Trump is poised to take a tougher approach than the
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Obama Justice Department did in states that have legalized the use of recreational marijuana.  
... 
Spicer telegraphed the administration won’t take a get-tough approach against medical marijuana, saying Trump believes in its ability to "comfort" people suffering from debilitating diseases.  
But he said he takes a different view of recreational marijuana, linking it to the abuse of opioid drugs in states across the U.S.  
There is little evidence showing a link between abuse of the two drugs. Some researchers believe medical marijuana could help reduce demand for opioid-based painkillers.  
Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty others have laws allowing medical marijuana. 
If revival of the failed War on Drugs (at least against marijuana) was not enough, Trump's administration appears ready to enthusiastically embrace other 1980s era criminal justice failures.  Trump has already signaled support for civil forfeiture, which has a well documented history of abuse.  His administration also appears ready to end the Obama-era moratorium on the feds renewing contracts for the use of private prisons, another enormous policy failure.  Is federal sentencing reform out the window as well?  Could be as Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked to block sentencing reform while in the U.S. Senate, despite widespread bipartisan support.
The sad thing was that pre-Trump the GOP was moving in the right direction on all these issues.  Reform though seems endangered by a "law and order" Republican President who seems oblivious to the failed history of the policies his administration supports.

          McConnell’s health-care misery: a bad bill taken to new lows   
For a good laugh, or rather cry, zip backward to the beginning of 2014, when Democrats still had control of the Senate, and listen to Mitch McConnell’s lamentations about the … Click to Continue »
          Beshear: 'Shame on' Senate President Stivers for politicizing drug crisis   
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          Repeal of Concealed Carry Permit Requirment Passes N.H. House   
A bill doing away with the permit requirement for carrying a concealed firearm is headed to Governor Chris Sununu’s desk after the House voted in favor of it Thursday. Plenty of lawmakers didn’t make it to through the snow to the State House Thursday, but the House still managed to pass a bill to repeal New Hampshire’s concealed carry law. Speaking just before the roll call, Representative John Burt urged the House to vote as it had before. "This body has voted twice before to pass the same language," said Burt, "The Senate, three times. I ask you to press the bright, shiny green button and pass constitutional carry." The 200 to 97 vote-means the repeal passes on to Governor Sununu, who has said that he will sign the bill. Former Governor Maggie Hassan twice vetoed similar bills.
          N.H. Senate Passes Concealed Carry Gun Bill   
The New Hampshire Senate has voted on party lines to allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. With Republicans leaders and Governor Chris Sununu favoring the bill, it’s expected to become law. Similar bills have cleared the GOP-controlled legislatures in the past but have been vetoed by Democratic governors. With Governor Sununu promising to sign this bill, Republicans are moving fast. Senate majority leader Jeb Bradley is the bill's lead sponsor. “We are talking about law abiding citizens being able to protect themselves. We are not talking about criminals. This is not radical, this is not ideological -- this is practical.” Democrats say current law, which allows people to carry guns openly but grants local police chiefs the power to decide if an applicant for a concealed permit is “suitable,” strikes the right balance. Vermont and Maine already allow people to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Vermont never required one; Maine lifted its requirement in 2015
          Ayotte Supports 'No Fly, No Buy' Gun Bill   
As the U.S. Senate debates measures to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, New Hampshire's Senator Kelly Ayotte is throwing her support to a proposal drafted by Maine Senator Susan Collins. The plan would bar people on the TSA's no-fly and selected lists from buying guns. It also creates an appeals process where people wrongly blocked from buying gun could recover legal fees from the federal government. "I hope that on both sides of the aisle we can work together to get a result to the American people and make sure that we get something done, so terrorists cannot purchase firearms.," Ayotte said, "But Mr. President, let's also make sure that we continue to go after ISIS, and defeat ISIS." Ayotte's support for the measure comes as top senate Democrats and Republicans are offering Orlando-inspired bills similar to ones that failed last year.
          Democrats Hold Senate Floor Until Early Thursday In A Push For Gun Control   
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          Governors, Mayors Come Out Against Senate Health Care Bill   
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          Audio: Majority Leaders Carlson and Wardner Call for Local Spending Cuts to Avoid Property Tax Hikes   
Senate majority leader Sen. Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson), left, and House majority leader Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo) review amendments for legislation before a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, April 25, 2017 in the state capitol. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune
Yesterday I had House Majority Leader Al Carlson and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner on my radio show on 970 WDAY (podcast) to recap the legislative session. The big thing on a lot of people’s minds heading into this interim, and the 2018 election cycle, is property taxes. Every press release I’ve seen from the...
          Republican Legislative Leaders: We Balanced the Budget and Didn’t Raise Taxes   
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          HIGH EARNER IN CHEAP SANDALS   
If you were asked to guess who is the highest paid politician in Spain the chances are you would have answered – the prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. However you would have been very wrong indeed.


The top earner is María Dolores de Cospedal and she is not even a member of the ruling socialist party. Yet according to her tax return she earned 223,598 euros in 2010, which is seven per cent less than the year before when she banked over 240,000 euros.

Her declaration means she earns three times as much as Zapatero – the premier only has his 78,184 euros official salary to live off. Cospedal’s tax return was published in the Diario Oficial de Castilla – La Mancha where she occupies a seat, is secretary general of the opposition Partido Popular and is bidding to be president of her home region.

In 2009 when she earned 240,737 euros her three main sources of income were from the Senate, the PP and her three year period with the State lawyer’s office.

However whilst Cospedal is a glamorous high earner she is seemingly a frugal spender. On the day the election campaign was launched last week in Castilla – La Mancha she was seen at a small market at Villanueva de los Infantes buying for herself a five euros pair of sandals.

Obviously a sure footed politician!
          Trump Criticized at Senate Panel Hearing on Response to Russian Hacking    
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          Trump Optimistic on Health Care Overhaul, But Concedes It Will Be 'Very Tough'   
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          Bill to make more California workers eligible for overtime pay passes Senate committee   
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          Rev. Al Sharpton Covers The Latest On The Healthcare Bill   
06/28/17 – Reverend Al Sharpton encourages people to remain steadfast in the fight against the Senate health care bill despite its latest hiccup. Like BlackAmericaWeb.com on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram Sign Up For Our Newsletter!
          Caddell on CNN Fake News Scandal: Networks Believe It’s ‘Their Right to Tell You Who You Must Vote For’   

Pat Caddell joined Breitbart News Daily SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday to discuss the Senate healthcare bill, as well as the fallout for CNN as Project Veritas released undercover video of a CNN producer admitting he thinks the network's Russia coverage is "bullsh*t."
          Poll: Majority Prefer ObamaCare to Struggling Senate GOP Bill   
Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell
As the GOP's Senate healthcare reform bill struggles to gain momentum, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) punting a vote beyond his previously stated July 4 deadline due to a lack of support, it seems the public is even less enthused than Republican lawmakers.
          Caddell: Senate Healthcare Bill ‘Dead as a Doornail’   

Pat Caddell joined Breitbart News daily SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday to discuss the Senate healthcare bill, as well as the fallout for CNN as Project Veritas released undercover video of a CNN producer admitting he thinks the network's Russia coverage is "bullsh*t."
          China OKs 38 Trump Trademarks; Critics Say It Violates Emoluments Clause   
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          Putin Accuses "Foreign Spy Agencies" Of Supporting Terrorism To Destabilize Russia   
Putin Accuses Foreign Spy Agencies Of Supporting Terrorism To Destabilize Russia In the first public accusation that "foreign spy agencies" are seeking to destabilize Russia made in recent years, during a meeting with Russia's foreign intelligence agency President Vladimir Putin said that "some foreign special services" are directly supporting extremist and terrorist groups to destabilize the situation near Russia’s borders, President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting with Russia’s foreign intelligence agency.

“In general, the growing activity of foreign special services against us and our allies is obvious,” Putin said quoted by Bloomberg during the televised speech in Moscow on Wednesday, without specifying which nations he was referring to. *“There are operations to influence the domestic political and social processes in our country.*”

Tangentially, the AP reported that according to an unclassified report by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, released on Wednesday, *Kremlin leaders are convinced America is intent on regime change in Russia, *"a fear that is feeding rising tension and military competition between the former Cold War foes."

"The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine," the report says, referencing the claims by President Vladimir Putin's government that the U.S. engineered the popular uprising that ousted Ukraine's Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovich, in 2014. Russia responded by annexing Ukraine's Crimea region and supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.



Thursday's report, prepared long before Trump's election, reflects the Pentagon's view of the global security picture shifting after nearly two decades of heavy American focus on countering terrorism and fighting relatively small-scale wars across the Middle East. Russia, in particular, is now at the center of the national security debate in Congress, fed by political divisions over how to deal with Putin and whether his military buildup, perceived threats against NATO and alleged election interference call for a new U.S. approach.



According to the AP, the 116-page report portrays Russia as increasingly wary of the United States. It cites Moscow's "deep and abiding distrust of U.S. efforts to promote democracy around the world and what it perceives as a U.S. campaign to impose a single set of global values." One almost wonders why.



"Moscow worries that U.S. attempts to dictate a set of acceptable international norms threatens the foundations of Kremlin power by giving license for foreign meddling in Russia's internal affairs," the report says. Titled "Russia Military Power," it is the agency's first such unclassified assessment in more than two decades.



The report also discusses recent military developments, with a focus on the middle east.



It cites the example of Moscow's 2015 military intervention in Syria. The Kremlin cast the effort as designed to combat Islamic State fighters. Washington saw Moscow largely propping up Assad by providing air support for the Syrian army's offensive against opposition forces.

 

The report says the Syria intervention is intended also to eliminate jihadist elements that originated on the former Soviet Union's territory to prevent them from returning home and threatening Russia. In any case, the report credits the intervention for having "changed the entire dynamic of the conflict, bolstering the Assad regime and ensuring that no resolution to the conflict is possible without Moscow's agreement."

 

"Nevertheless, these actions also belie a deeply entrenched sense of insecurity regarding a United States that Moscow believes is intent on undermining Russia at home and abroad," the report says.



The report harkens to Cold War days when the intelligence agency published a series of "Soviet Military Power" studies that defined the contours of the superpower rivalry. Those reports ended with the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. Now they return, DIA's director, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent R. Stewart, says, with an eye on the future of U.S.-Russian relations.

"*Within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge," *Stewart wrote in a preface to the report. No new, global ideological struggle akin to the Cold War is forecast, but the report cautions that Moscow "intends to use its military to promote stability on its own terms."

Which is why the "deep state", the Military-Industrial Complex. the neo-cons or whatever one wants to call the permanently bellicose wing in control, will *never *allow Trump to pursue a detente with Putin. To be sure, while Trump's campaign rhetoric was widely seen as sympathetic to Russia, ties have not improved in his first six months of his presidency. In April, *Trump said U.S.-Russian relations "may be at an all-time low." *Trump is expected to meet Putin for the first time at an international summit in Germany next week.

Meanwhile, to perpetuate the anti-Russia witch hunt, on Wednesday Rep. Adam Smith, the House Armed Services Committee's top Democrat, issued a "national security manifesto" on Russia. *He and a group of lawmakers writing in Time magazine cited the threat of "Putinism," which they termed "a philosophy of dictatorship" that seeks to extinguish democratic ideals such as government transparency by exploiting "discontented facets of democratic polities worldwide.*"

Which, of course, is not to be confused with CIA-ism, which is a philosophy of suberting any government around the globe with promises of globalist, credit-card driven expansion, and if that fails, with outright threats (and actions) to overthrow the existing regime by supporting its closest adversaries, both domestic and foreign.

Taking McCarthyism to the next level, at a Senate intelligence committee hearing Wednesday, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat, said Russia is becoming more brazen.

*"Russia's goal is to sow chaos and confusion - to fuel internal disagreements and to undermine democracies whenever possible, and to cast doubt on the democratic process wherever it exists," *Warner said.

In other words, Russia is becoming just like the US... One can see why the Deep State and Democrats are so terrified. Reported by Zero Hedge 16 minutes ago.
          1 in 5 Californians uninsured under GOP bill, study says   
Because California moved more aggressively than most other states to implement the Affordable Care Act — accepting increased federal dollars to expand the Medi-Cal insurance program for the poor, and creating the state insurance exchange Covered California — the potential loss in coverage in the state would be more dramatic than in many other states, according to the report. “California has been as aggressive as any state in getting more people insured under the Affordable Care Act,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which analyzes health care policy. Since the ACA was implemented in 2014, California reduced the rate of its uninsured residents from 17 percent to a record low 7 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Senate measure would also change eligibility requirements to receive federal subsidies to buy insurance plans on Covered California, leading to tens of thousands fewer people receiving the financial assistance.
          CBO: Senate health bill would lead to 22 million fewer insured   
The Senate health care bill introduced last week would lead to 22 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026, while reducing the federal deficit by $321 billion, according to an analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Like the House bill, it would eliminate the requirement for individuals to buy insurance and repeal the taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans that paid for the expansion of coverage to millions of people since the law took effect in 2014. On Monday, GOP Senate leaders added a so-called “continuous coverage” provision that would require people who had gaps in insurance coverage of at least 63 days the previous year to wait six months, after signing up for insurance, before their new coverage kicks in. The Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would end the increased federal funding to state Medicaid programs that began under the ACA. [...] it would change the way Medicaid — called Medi-Cal in California — gets funded in the long run by capping the amount of money the federal government provides states each year, and tying that number to a growth rate that is slower than the growth rate of health care costs. The subsidies under the Senate proposal would be linked to a less generous insurance plan with a higher deductible — meaning even those who would continue to receive assistance would probably shoulder higher out-of-pocket costs. Older Americans, regardless of whether they receive subsidies, could pay much higher premiums under the GOP plan because both the House and Senate bills would allow insurance companies to charge older people up to five times more than what they charge younger people. Changes to the Senate bill are anticipated this week, as several GOP senators — from both the moderate and conservative wings of the party — have expressed reservations about the measure and could lobby for amendments.
          Correction: U2-Malibu Development story   

In a story Sept. 20 about a compound of mansions proposed near Malibu by U2 guitarist The Edge, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the California Coastal Commission staff reached a settlement agreement Friday with the musician. The settlement was reached in 2013. The agency staff recommended approval of the five-home project Thursday and posted its report online Friday.

A corrected version of the story is below:

U2 guitarist gets boost in bid for Malibu mansions

U2 guitarist agrees to scaled-down Malibu development with California Coastal Commission

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) — The guitarist for U2 finally has an edge in getting his long-planned compound of mansions built in the mountains above Malibu.

The California Coastal Commission staff recommended approval Thursday of the project headed by David Evans, better known as The Edge, for a downsized version of the development that was objected to by neighbors and environmentalists.

Evans has tried since 2006 to build five mansions on 150 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

"From Day 1, I had told these guys that the one way to get to approval" was to make these changes, said Jack Ainsworth, the commission's senior deputy director. "And here we are back at that same place many years later."

The project still needs approval by the full commission, which is scheduled to vote next month.

"It's not a slam dunk by any means," Ainsworth told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1BVTfBt).

Backers of the project sued the commission after staff rejected plans in February 2011.

Neighbors had complained the project would ruin their views, and environmentalists said it would harm habitat. The commission staff said the homes would mar an undeveloped ridgeline visible from the coast and destroy vegetation.

The staff also asserted that Evans attempted to circumvent environmental rules by submitting five applications under different corporate names.

Lobbyists for Evans unsuccessfully pushed a bill in Sacramento that would have made it easier to develop the parcel. A Senate committee rejected the bill after environmentalists said it was a power grab by developers and special interests

The revised plans are dramatically different, and the homes, including one for the musician, would be built into hillside contours, a project spokeswoman said.

Compared to the original proposal, the agreement calls for less grading, a smaller development, clustering homes on a lower plateau, shortening an access road and devoting more land for conservation.

Jefferson "Jay" Wagner, a former Malibu councilman who criticized the project, said he was surprised to learn it was still on the table.

Wagner said neighbors would be upset if Evans and his partners sold easement rights for access to nearby lots that could be developed.


          Schwarzenegger reveals portrait by Austrian artist   

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lifted the curtain on his official portrait Monday, revealing a photograph-like giant image of the onetime bodybuilder standing in front of the official California seal.

Schwarzenegger unveiled the portrait at a ceremony in the state Capitol in which he made a rare appearance in Sacramento nearly four years after he left office.

The oversized portrait of a youthful Schwarzenegger, which will eventually hang on the third floor, was painted by Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, a realist who previously illustrated Andy Warhol and John F. Kennedy.

Schwarzenegger, a movie star before he ran for governor in the chaotic recall election of 2003, said he owes all his successes in life to California, which he called a mythical place "where nothing is impossible." As a boy growing up in Austria, he dreamed about the state, he said.

"I dreamt about California every day, and I knew that one day I would have to come here to this beautiful state if I wanted to make my dreams a reality," he said.

Schwarzenegger said that while he always dreamed big, he never envisioned his portrait hanging in the state Capitol, joking "I might have envisioned a sculpture on Muscle Beach."

Two of Schwarzenegger's five children attended the unveiling, Christopher, 16, and Patrick, 20, which also included political notables including at least three former speakers of the state Assembly, Willie Brown, Bob Hertzberg and Fabian Nunez. He also posed for photos with former staff and lawmakers and hugged 28-year-old John Masterson, who has Down syndrome and worked in the governor's mailroom.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said the massive image of Schwarzenegger is appropriate because Schwarzenegger is "larger than life."

Singer Jerry Garcia "had a wonderful quote saying, 'You don't want to be the best of the best. You want to be the only one that does what you do,' " Newsom said. "And it's a way to describe Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called it "just right."

"I thought it was very dignified. It actually looked like a photograph to me," he said.

True to his outsized life, Schwarzenegger's portrait is larger than those of other modern-day governors, roughly half a foot wider and a foot taller than his predecessor, according to the Department of General Services. The former governor paid for the portrait himself at an undisclosed cost.

The portrait unveiling followed an event earlier Monday in which Schwarzenegger's University of Southern California-based institute hosted a climate symposium that also featured Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

The seminar highlighted the state's aggressive efforts to tackle issues such as reducing carbon emissions.

"While the politicians in Washington can't get anything done because of being stuck in these ideological foxholes, we here in California have two governors from two different parties, together in the same room fighting for the same green energy future," Schwarzenegger said at the summit.

Organizers are using the state's policies to prompt further action ahead of United Nations climate-change conferences in Peru and Paris.

During his tenure, Schwarzenegger signed California's landmark 2006 global-warming law, AB32, which paved the way for the state's system of selling carbon pollution credits aimed at reducing emissions.

Brown praised Schwarzenegger's accomplishment in winning bipartisan support for the climate change law.

"To get AB32 through the California legislature, that is heavy lifting, and I don't think anyone should underestimate that. I'm not sure any other governor might have done this," he said at the symposium.

Schwarzenegger said that California leaders of all political stripes have chosen to address climate change because not doing so will cost much more in the long run in things such as state infrastructure at risk of failure because of flooding, increased heat- and pollution-related deaths, and a never-ending wildfire season that stretches state budgets.

As governor, Schwarzenegger promised to bring fiscal accountability, but the state faced a huge budget deficit when he left office. In one of his final acts in office, Schwarzenegger commuted the involuntary-manslaughter sentence of the son of Nunez, a former political ally.

Months after Schwarzenegger left office, embarrassing revelations emerged about an affair he had with his maid that resulted in a son born out of wedlock. The disclosure devastated his marriage to Maria Shriver, and the two are separated.


          Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017   
The Senate delayed its vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act in light of widespread negative reactions for a variety of reasons from both sides of the aisle. So what makes this different from the American Health Care Act? Or the Affordable Care Act?
          Maine Court's decision on ranked choice voting can't thwart the people's will   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2017

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Jill Ward, president of the Maine League of Women Voters, 207-317-6310
Kyle Bailey with The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, 207-939-8600

 

Maine’s Supreme Court today issued an advisory opinion stating its belief that ranked choice voting (RCV) is in conflict with the Maine state constitution when applied to general elections for governor and state legislature.

The law, however, does remain fully in effect. This ruling has no binding impact and does not apply to use of RCV for all of Maine’s congressional and state primaries in 2018 and its U.S. Senate and U.S. House elections in November 2018.

“Maine voters embraced ranked choice voting because they wanted a stronger voice, more civil campaigns, and to reform our toxic politics. This opinion must not stand in the way of the will of the people. We call on the Maine legislature to uphold the will of the people and support a constitutional amendment to enact RCV for all statewide elections in Maine. Ranked choice voting is also still plainly constitutional for major offices in Maine, including elections for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Those elections have been affected by split-votes in the past, and will benefit from the use of ranked choice voting going forward.”

“We look forward to working with the coalition on the ground in Maine on a successful implementation of ranked choice voting in 2018 -- and on building even more national momentum for this proven and constitutional reform to give voters more power.”

Ranked choice voting remains on the move nationally: This year 19 other states had legislation on ranked choice voting, and chambers supporting its use in federal offices included the Utah House of Representatives and Hawaii House of Representatives.

For comment on the response on the ground in Maine, please contact Jill Ward, president of the League of Women Voters of Maine at 207-317-6310 or Kyle Bailey with the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting at 207-939-8600.


          Maine Voters Adopt Ranked Choice Voting, Lead the Way for More Choice, More Voice   

Lead the Way for More Choice, More Voice

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ranked choice voting is a voting system that gives voters the freedom to rank candidates in order of choice on a ballot. It is used in a dozen cities across the U.S. including San Francisco (CA), Minneapolis (MN), and Portland (ME). For more information on how ranked choice voting works, go to fairvote.org/rcv.

Question 5 passed in Maine by a margin of 52% to 48%. Benton County adopted ranked choice voting by 54% to 46%.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 9, 2016

CONTACT:

Kyle Bailey, Campaign Manager, Yes On 5 | kyle@rcvmaine.com

Jill Ward, President, League of Women Voters of Maine | jmward23@gmail.com

Michelle Whittaker, Director of Communications, FairVote | (301) 270-1238 | mwhittaker@fairvote.org

 

PORTLAND, MAINE — On November 8, Maine voters passed Question 5 and became the first state in the nation to adopt Ranked Choice Voting for state and federal elections. The Yes On 5 campaign was led by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, a grassroots, Maine-based organization founded by former independent state senator Dick Woodbury of Yarmouth, and led by Kyle Bailey of Gorham.

“Passage of Question 5 is a historic victory for the people of Maine,” said campaign chair Dick Woodbury. “Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Greens, and Libertarians across Maine understand that the system is broken, and they have taken an important step to help fix it.”

“Maine people have exercised their right to change the way we elect our leaders,” said campaign manager Kyle Bailey. “Question 5 levels the playing field for candidates with the best ideas and gives more choice and more voice to voters, so you never have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”

Question 5 was endorsed by over 500 civic, business, labor, and faith leaders and organizations, and newspapers across Maine. The campaign was supported by a politically diverse campaign committee and county co-chairs. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine endorsed Ranked Choice Voting in 2011 and convened a working group that drafted the law on which the initiative was based.

“Maine has not elected a governor to a first term with majority support since 1966,” said Jill Ward, President of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “Ranked Choice Voting restores majority rule and puts more power in the hands of voters.”

FairVote, a national organization that advocates for Ranked Choice Voting and other proven solutions to give more voice to voters, supported a project in Maine to educate voters about this reform.

“The adoption of Ranked Choice Voting in Maine marks a dramatic step forward for American democracy,” said FairVote executive director Rob Richie, “Maine's groundbreaking victory promises to inspire other states to embrace this better system.”

Under the new law, Ranked Choice Voting will take effect in Maine in 2018 for primary and general elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor, State Senate, and State Representative. “The voters of Maine have spoken,” said Ward. “We’re ready to get to work to ensure that this new law is implemented efficiently and effectively, and that the will of the people is upheld.”

 

###


          Survey on Ranked Choice Voting in Bay Area Shows Promise for New System   

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 16, 2015 9AM PDT

FOR INFORMATION, CONTACT:  Sarah John (301) 270-4616 or sjohn@fairvote.org

Read the full report and associated data here

Voters Support RCV and Perceive Differences in Behavior of Candidates

An independent telephone survey has good news for ranked choice voting (RCV)

 

  • RCV is supported by a majority of voters in each of the four Bay Area cities using it.
  • Voters in these cities understand RCV and the Top-Two Primary in equal numbers.
  • Voters in these cities perceived less negative campaigning than in similar cities. 

 

In November 2014, the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, based at Rutgers University, surveyed a total of 1,345 likely voters (defined as registered voters who self-report being interested in local elections) from the four California cities using RCV. In Oakland, the site of a competitive mayoral race, 685 respondents were surveyed, and another 660 respondents were surveyed across Berkeley, San Francisco, and San Leandro. A total of 1,111 respondents were polled in seven control cities, all California cities that held local elections using plurality voting rules in November. The poll was the second large-scale independent poll conducted by the Eagleton Poll on voter experiences under RCV; the first, conducted in November 2013, involved more than 2,400 respondents from three cities with RCV and seven control cities.

The two polls, developed by Dr. Caroline J. Tolbert (University of Iowa) and Dr. Todd Donovan (Western Washington University) in conjunction with the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll’s Dr. David Redlawsk, were made possible by a grant from the Democracy Fund. The grant mandated an independent study of the impact of RCV on the civility and substance of political campaigns in American cities, as well as content analysis of traditional and new media and detailed analysis of voter turnout and spoiled ballots. Drs. Tolbert and Donovan have presented academic papers on the 2013 survey results and plan to publish widely.

Drs. Sarah John (FairVote) and Caroline Tolbert report key demographic findings from the study at the project’s webpageHighlights from the 2014 California survey include:

    • Ranked choice voting garners overall voter support: Among all likely voters with an opinion about RCV in the four Bay Area cities that use RCV, 57 percent agreed that “ranked choice voting, where voters can rank candidates in order of preference with their first choice counting most, should be used in local elections.” A majority backed RCV in each city, including 60 percent in Oakland.
    • RCV support is greatest among people of color, young people, and low-income voters: While a majority of most demographic groups support RCV, the strongest support for RCV came from respondents aged under 30 years (61%), with a family income under $40,000 (63%), and those who did not attend college (65%), as well as Asian (72%) and Latino (59%) respondents.
    • RCV is associated with less perceived criticism in campaigns: Residents of RCV cities were more likely to respond that candidates spent little time criticizing opponents, when compared to the responses of residents living in non-RCV cities. In RCV cities, only 53 percent of respondents in RCV cities remembered candidates criticizing each other, compared to 65 percent in non-RCV cities. Similarly, more respondents in cities using RCV (17%) reported reduced negativity in local election campaigns than in cities without RCV (12%). These findings are consistent with similar patterns in the 2013 survey.
    • Self-reported understanding of RCV is high and compares favorably to the Top-Two primary: An overwhelming majority (89%) of respondents in RCV cities found the RCV ballot easy to understand. More respondents (49%) in RCV cities reported understanding RCV extremely or very well than reported understanding the Top-Two primary extremely or very well (40%).

These findings are consistent with the fact that ballot error rates are lower in mayoral elections with RCV than top-of-the-ballot races in California in June primaries.  In November 2010, the proportion of voters who invalidated their ballots in the first use of RCV in mayoral elections in Oakland and San Leandro was less than one tenth the proportion of voters who invalidated their U.S. Senate ballot in the June 2012 top-two primary.  Reflecting high levels of voter understanding of RCV, more than eight in ten voters in Oakland’s RCV mayoral elections successfully ranked at least two candidates and, of the city’s 18 offices elected by RCV, 16 of the first RCV winners of these offices had more votes than the winner of the last non-RCV winner for those offices.

    • Understanding of RCV is high among African-Americans: Ninety percent of African-American voters in RCV cities found ballot instructions easy to understand, compared to an abysmal 65 percent in non-RCV cities. Similarly, slightly higher proportions of African American voters understood RCV than understood plurality.
    • Respondents in non-RCV cities are less content with the status quo: The four cities with the highest reported levels of candidate criticism were all plurality cities. Additionally, the three worst cities for reduced negativity were all non-RCV cities. Not surprisingly, then, cities using plurality to elect their local officials were home to four of the five constituencies least satisfied with the conduct of campaigns.
    • Independent voters are more satisfied under RCV: Independent respondents in RCV cities expressed significantly higher levels ofsatisfaction with the conduct of the 2014 local campaign than did their counterparts in non-RCV cities.

Our analysis of voter turnout and voter behavior in these elections is consistent with the findings of the 2014 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll survey. These findings include:

  • Voter turnout: Voter turnout in the 2014 mayoral election with RCV in Oakland was higher than turnout in the 2014 mayoral runoff in San Jose, even though San Jose had higher turnout than Oakland in the 2012 presidential election.
  • Voter understanding: More than 99% of voters in each one of the Bay Area’s 24 RCV contests in 2014 cast a valid ballot. In contrast, less than 96% of Oakland and San Leandro voters cast valid votes in the first use of the Top Two primary in the June  2012 U.S. Senate election.
  • Effect on campaigns: Independent expenditures dropped precipitously from the 2010 Oakland mayoral election, which was widely seen as a positive race. As typical of high-profile RCV races, about three in four voters in the Oakland mayoral race used all three of their rankings, and winner Libby Schaaf earned substantial second or third choice support from backers of every single candidate who earned at least two percent of the vote.
  • Women and people of color: Women have a history of doing well in ranked choice voting elections. This year, women won 17 of 24 Bay Area seats, including nine of the 11 races that were open seats or in which an incumbent was defeated. Of the 52 seats in the Bay Area elected using RCV, 46 are held by women and people of color—this constitutes a large increase from the days before RCV elections.

In the coming weeks, FairVote will release additional reports from the findings of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll surveys. The next report planned explores voter experiences and perceptions of RCV city by city.

 # # # #

FairVote is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to make democracy fair, functional, and representative by developing the analysis and educational tools necessary for our reform partners to win and sustain improvements to American elections.

For more information on this analysis or for more information on contacting Drs. Tolbert and Donovan, please contact FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie or FairVote Democracy Fellow Sarah John at (301) 270-4616, or by email at sjohn@fairvote.org.

 


          FairVote Reformer: Winner-Take-All Electoral System is a Loser for Democracy   

Spotlight: President Obama, Red & Blue America & and the Perils of Winner-Take-All 2011 State of the Union

In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Barack Obama put particular stress on the theme that launched him into national prominence in 2004 at the Democratic Party convention, declaring “that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.” Later in the week, he visited two strongly Republican states, Idaho and Kansas, to explain his policy proposals.

The fact that it was the president’s first visit to Idaho of his presidency tells us how his vision of a “united states” clashes with the unforgiving logic of winner-take-all elections. The three, remaining unvisited states -- South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah, -- are also firmly “red,” underscoring how the White House political team has prioritized swing states in his first team. In 2008, for example, Obama won 49.7% of the vote in North Carolina and 44.7% in South Carolina. That may look a small difference, but he visited North Carolina 18 times in his first term and held the 2012 Democratic convention there; yet he hasn’t been back to South Carolina since his key primary win there in January 2008.

Why? There simply is no way his campaign could turn 44.7% into a win in 2012. Today, nearly all competition between the major parties only takes place within the 47% to 53% spectrum of partisanship. Outside that narrow range, you’re almost certainly wasting money, whether running for president with winner-take-all rules for allocating electors or running for U.S. Congress.

In presidential elections, winner-take-all voting means that the White House is effectively elected by the small - and ever shrinking - number of swing states, rather than by the voters in all 50 states. Citing FairVote’s research, The Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton in a new column favoring the National Popular Vote plan for president writes that: “Under a winner-take-all system, the vast majority of states are shunted to the sidelines, forced to watch from afar as the candidates fight it out in a few battleground states.” The Washington Post last week used FairVote data to show visually how partisan lines are dividing America.

The same is true of congressional elections. Winner-take-all is so decisive, in fact, that FairVote was able to project the outcomes for the 2014 congressional elections for 370 out of 435 races – missing only one. The same goes for the 2016 congressional election outcomes, which FairVote projected only two days after the 2014 elections in more than 85% of U.S. House Seats.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to winner-take-all. The National Popular Vote plan for president would make every vote in every state in every election count equally, creating new incentives for equitable campaigning. With fair representation voting for Congress, the left, right and center of every region of the country while ensuring that every voter can take part in a meaningfully contested election. This is something President Obama has a record of supporting: as a state senator, he introduced a billto bring fair representation voting to Illinois and another bill to establish ranked choice voting (“instant runoff”) for primaries.

That reform history is consistent with his call during the State of the Union speech to uphold voting rights, when he stated “surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred." Such statements are an encouraging sign that the president will once again address fair representation and voting rights, issues that he was generally a champion for during his early days as a politician in Illinois. Reaching across the aisle for support to change winner-take-all elections is the best say to end the political dead zones in red and blue states, which leave voters helpless and resulting in less fair representation. (See our summary of 2016 dead zones that underscores how much of the country is stuck in a false “red” or “blue” reality based on winner-take-all voting.)

News on our Feb. 5-6 conference, Ranked Choice Voting campaigns and more

•           Attend our Conference! FairVote is co-sponsoring the ninth annual Voting and Elections Summit, Feb. 5-6 at George Washington University. The first day will include a keynote address done by Congressman Keith Ellison and a FairVote plenary with a great lineup of 20-minute dialogues. The second day will include FairVote-run workshops on getting involved in our Promote our Vote project and our full reform agenda.

•           Right to vote amendment reintroduced: US Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison introduced a Right to Vote constitutional amendment at a press conference on Thursday morning, and FairVote staffer Dania Korkor spoke in support. Watch the video here, and call for a constitutional Right to Vote here.

•           Ranked choice voting advocacy and news: Ranked choice voting (RCV, or “instant runoff”)- made headlines this month, with a new editorial endorsement from the Washington Post, in support of new RCV legislation in Washington, D.C and with ”don’t miss” comments from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges in a prominent event in DC (see Hodges talk about RCV at the 29 minute mark). In Maine, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting has collected more than 60,000 signatures to put RCV on the November 2106 ballot and won support from Maine’s largest newspaper. The system will also be used to determine the winner for Best Picture category at the Oscars. Take the poll here to show us how you would rank the contenders.

•           FairVote analyses garners attention: FairVote’s work has been getting attention recently, with a piece from Aaron Blake in the Washington Post on the decline of swing states, a prominent citation from Dylan Matthews at Vox that stirred vigorous debate (to which our Nathan Nicholson responded in posts here and here.), and the George Skelton Los Angeles Times column on the National Popular Vote plan.

•           Thank you! Our thanks to all of our supporters and donors for their generous year end support. We surpassed our end-of-year goals, but it’s not too late to help make a difference in 2015 with a new donation!

 

Highlights from the FairVote Blog

 

See more from our blog at www.fairvoteblog.com, and also see longer form blog posts by clicking here.


          FairVote Reformer: Spotlight on Projections in 85% of 2016 Congressional Elections   

Minter despondent photo NYT Dec 10 updateOn November 6, 2014, more than two years before the 2016 congressional elections, FairVote projected the outcomes of the 2016 congressional elections in more than 85% of U.S. house seats. In other words, FairVote projects that 373 house districts are so deeply entrenched for one party that the incumbent can keep their seat just by seeking re-election, 
irrespective of who else runs or how much money is spent in the race.

Whole regions of the country are politically dead. We project winners in every seat for 27 states. In a group of 14 southern and border states, we project winners in 125 of 126 seats – and 123 seats even if every election were an open seat with equal financing. This means that literally hundreds of districts are beyond competition with real consequences for voters being part of meaningful debates. For a powerful example, see the New York Times “op-art” piece by Marco Ricci, following the candidacy of Mike Minter, a Democrat running in what may be the most Republican district in the nation.

A partisan skew that distorts accountability has also emerged. Of the 373 safe seats, Republicans hold 212. That means that Republicans only need to win six of 62 unprojected seats to win 218 seats and keep their majority. To retake the House, Democratic candidates would likely need to win some 55% of the vote.

Our method of projection is remarkably accurate. In 2013, FairVote projected 368 house seats and those projections matched the results in 367 contests without any analysis whatsoever of polling data or campaign spending. In 2012, FairVote projected 333 seats and those projections matched the results in all 333 contests: 100% accuracy.

Shortly after the election, our executive director Rob Richie authored a piece in The Nation highlighting just how unfair congressional elections have become. It echoed pre-election pieces making the case for fair representation voting by Krist Novoselic in the Open Standard and by Reihan Salam in Slate. These pieces demonstrate that broken congressional elections hurt everyone, and how there is an all-partisan solution on the table.

FairVote has consistently promoted the fair voting solution. By noting that the problem is not merely gerrymandering but actually inherent in districting itself, the way out becomes clear: replace the exclusive use of winner-take-all districts with fair representation voting. With fair representation voting, voters have the power to choose their representatives, irrespective of what district they happen to be drawn into, using American, candidate-based forms of proportional voting like ranked choice voting. This constitutional and historically-grounded way of conducting elections could be applied to Congress by using larger districts, each electing between three and five candidates. We are helping to craft model legislation that would enact these practices.

FairVote has drawn sample maps demonstrating how this solution would truly represent the left, right and center of every state while making every vote count. Those maps can be easily viewed along with detailed analysis at fairvoting.us. Look up your state, and see what fair voting could mean for you.


Other News

  • FairVote is co-sponsoring the ninth annual Voting and Elections Summit, Feb. 5-6 at George Washington University. We’ll have sessions with prominent speakers on the 5th, and two workshops on the 6th digging deep into how people can get involved in our core reform work.
  • The largest newspaper in Maine reports on signature drive for ranked choice voting, which they have endorsed already. A nearly all-volunteer effort has collected about two-thirds of the necessary signatures for a statewide vote to use RCV for all state and congressional elections in Maine.
  • FairVote’s staff frequently makes presentations. Our executive director Rob Richie presented in the past week on instant runoff voting in Newport News, the right to vote amendment at the Rainbow PUSH annual conference and on redistricting reform in Washington, D.C.
  • Friday, December 12, Rob Richie and policy analyst Andrew Douglas will present during a FairVote-sponsored session at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ winter meeting. FairVote staffers talked with hundreds of elected officials and civic leaders at booths recently at the annual meetings of the National League of Cities and National Conference of State Legislatures.
  • The Washington Post has editorialized on behalf of ranked choice voting in its instant runoff form twice in the past month, including this strong piece. See highlights of FairVote’s high profile news coverage throughout 2014.
  • FairVote submits testimony on Michigan Electoral College “reform” plan, providing criticism of both the current winner-take-all system and Michigan’s proposed alternative formula. FairVote’s Roll Call piece on November 7 was the first to flag this potential bill and why the National Popular Vote plan remains the best way for states to move forward.
  • Positive results in Oakland’s high profile RCV race for mayor demonstrate that Oakland voters understood and used it well there and in three other California cities. See our visual demonstration of the Oakland race, and stay tuned for results of a new telephone survey that will confirm the findings of a similar survey last year.

From the Blog

See more from our blog at www.fairvoteblog.com, and also see longer form blog posts by clicking here.


          The Angle: Lurking Trumpcare Edition   

Not dead yet: Sen. Mitch McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday that he’ll delay the vote on Trumpcare didn't settle Jim Newell’s nerves overmuch. The Republican leadership in the Senate could still come back after the July Fourth break and offer holdouts just enough to get their support.


          The Reformer: Special Edition, FairVote's Reforms Featured in Washington Post and New York Times   

We'll be back next month with more detailed news from FairVote, but as summer comes to a close we wanted to share two
high-profile commentaries on our core reform proposals.

First, Katrina vanden Heuvel had a widely syndicated commentary published in the Washington Post, where she makes a powerful case for advancing our fair representation plan and builds upon her recent piece on the National Popular Vote plan. Vanden Heuvel extends the logic of her previous analysis to showcase how House elections can be reformed using multi-seat districts and a fair representation alternative, highlighting our interactive flash map (which shows such plans for every state in the country with more than one House district). Take a look -- and please sign this petition to ask your House Member to support a bill to make this change.

Second, Executive Director Rob Richie had a letter published in the New York Times, making the case for a right to vote in the Constitution. The letter dovetailed nicely with new advances for our Promote Our Vote resolutions and our new website, which highlights various efforts to secure a constitutional right to vote.

We've attached both pieces in full below. You also might enjoy Richie's Gainesville Sun commentary on how Florida could resolve its redistricting lawsuit with the 2014 elections, as well as John Burbank's piece on proportional representation, and Larry Bradley's commentary about Instant Runoff Voting. There are also several new pieces on FairVote's blog.

 


New York Times. August 17, 2014. By Robert Richie.

Trying to ensure the fundamental right to vote

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/opinion/trying-to-ensure-the-fundamental-right-to-vote.html 

To the Editor:

Your Aug. 12 editorial “Where Voting Is Now Easier,” about the divergent directions states are taking on the accessibility of voting, underscores an unsettling reality: Our 50 states and more than 10,000 local jurisdictions structure and administer elections that are all separate and unequal. Our nation is long overdue for an explicit right to vote in the Constitution.

In 1787, our founders were not ready to establish that right. Over time, the right to vote has advanced largely as a state right. Federal constitutional changes have expanded suffrage, but they have never established it as a fundamental right of American citizenship. Until we join most states and other nations in enshrining the right to vote in our Constitution, some states and localities will infringe on voting rights, whether by design or as a byproduct of running democracy on the cheap.

Congress is entertaining H.J. Res. 44 to put a right to vote in the Constitution, a measure backed by a growing number of local governments. Let’s end the voting wars and accept voting as the fundamental democratic right that it is.


Washington Post. August 19, 2014. By Katrina vanden Heuvel.

We need a fairer system for choosing House members

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katrina-vanden-heuvel-we-need-a-fairer-system-for-choosing-house-members/2014/08/19/bf93c84c-271c-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html

In the original conception of our Constitution, the House of Representatives was to be the branch of government that best reflected the will of the people. House members cannot serve without being elected — vacancies are not filled by appointees — and they must face the voters every two years. Notably, the House holds pride of place as the first branch of government to be described in the Constitution. The framers move directly from “We the People” to the House, underlining the notion that, for our Constitution (and our government) to function, representatives must be accountable to the people.

Unfortunately, as we near the 2014 midterm elections, the reality of House races today clashes with that goal.

Let’s start with the connection between votes and seats. In 2012, we faced a major choice between the major parties and a mandate on President Obama’s first term. In the presidential race, Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the national popular vote by almost three percentage points, and Republicans suffered the worst performance in Senate elections by any major party in a half-century.

In House races, Democratic nominees overcame incumbent advantages for Republicans and won the national popular vote by more than 1.1 million votes. By those numbers, Americans painted the Capitol royal blue. Shockingly, though, Republicans won 54 percent of the House seats,establishing for themselves a 33-seat majority. And looking ahead, analysts estimate that Democrats may need as much as 55 percent of the popular vote in November to secure a majority.

Such a disconnect between voters and those who are installed as their congressional leaders goes far beyond any distortion we’ve seen in the Electoral College in presidential elections. It’s absolutely unacceptable in House elections, and it deserves far more debate than it has received.

The most-discussed culprit for the abysmal nature of House elections is gerrymandering. Every decade, states redraw congressional districts. Given the sophistication of today’s technology, the growing partisan divide among voters and the relatively low-profile nature of the process, those in charge of mapping have the means, motive and opportunity to use redistricting to help their friends and hurt their enemies. Republicans in states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia did just that. Barack Obama carried all those states in 2008, but today, Republicans hold a 68-31 edge in those states’ House seats.

But while gerrymandering matters, we must think more broadly. The core problem turns out to be districting, not redistricting. Congress’s 1967 law that mandates use of single-member districts for House elections has institutionalized the practice of shoehorning voters into boxes that restrict choices and distort representation. That is, districts are drawn in ways that lead to results predetermined by the powers that be. But today, there’s a growing call, from members of Congress including James Clyburn (D-S.C.) to institutions such as The Washington Post editorial board, to consider allowing voters to define their own representation in multi-seat district elections.

FairVote has created just such a fair-representation plan that Congress has full authority to establish. Every state would keep its same number of seats, but districts would be combined into larger districts drawn by independent commissions. Of critical importance: In each new “superdistrict,” like-minded voters could elect candidates of choice in proportion to their share of the vote. To illustrate: In this “open-ticket system,” a voter would cast a vote for one candidate. This vote counts for the candidate and, if that candidate is associated with a political party, also for that party. Seats are then allocated to parties in proportion to their share of the vote using a proportional-representation formula — like that used by Democrats to allocate convention delegates in their presidential primaries. Each party’s share of seats is filled by its candidates who won the most votes. An independent wins by exceeding the minimum share of votes necessary to win. (Watch FairVote’s excellent video for a primer on the system.)

In Massachusetts, for example, more than a third of the state’s voters consistently vote Republican, but the GOP has not won a House seat there in two decades. Yet by consolidating Massachusetts’s nine districts into three districts of three seats each, and by using a fair-representation system, that significant bloc of Republican votes would consistently win three — rather than zero — of Massachusetts’s nine seats, a direct translation of the voters’ will. Similarly, Democrats could end Republican monopolies and exaggerated majorities in states such as Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Although novel, fair representation has the potential to draw a strong coalition of support. Women, for example, are deeply underrepresented in House elections, with more than four in five seats still held by men, and women win about 10 percent more seats in multi-seat state-legislative and city-council elections than they do in congressional districts. Other supporters would be those in favor of 50-state parties, as we would engender two-party competition in every corner of the nation. Third parties would be able to field viable candidates, not mere spoilers, and our ideological polarization would be lessened with a new mix of representatives that better reflects the diversity of our thoughts and interests.

How we can move such a bold plan forward? To start, Democrats who are crafting a redistricting reform package should enable commissions to create such plans. State leaders should petition Congress for an exemption from the 1967 mandate. Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) has proposed that two states that have done partisan gerrymanders — one for Democrats and one for Republicans — could even enter into an interstate compact in which they agree to utilize a fair-representation plan together.

We may have an opportunity this year. In July, Florida’s congressional gerrymander was tossed out by a state judge on the grounds that two districts did not comply with the state’s Fair District constitutional amendments, which had been approved by voters in 2010. A FairVote proposal has shown how, in a fair-representation system, the five Florida districts affected by the ruling could be combined into a single district, its representatives chosen by the open-ticket rule. It would make every voter count, provide fairer partisan representation and uphold the Voting Rights Act.

People are thinking creatively about how to re-energize American democracy. It is not acceptable to sit on our hands as we watch the value of a vote get more and more skewed. It’s time to launch a drive for a fair-representation system for Congress so that the House of “We the People” can finally live up to its name.

 

 

 

 


          The Reformer: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform   

The Reformer, July 30, 2014: Encouraging Examples of All-Partisan Support for Reform

With political polarization at its highest point in more than a century, observers often assume opposition to reform is inevitable. Election reform is no exception; when one major party supports a proposal, the other often opposes it. But as Ciara Torres-Spelliscy explains on the Brennan Center blog, some reform efforts earn cooperation, as evidenced by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform. This ability to find across-the-aisle cooperation is reflective of recent developments for FairVote’s Reform 2020 agenda that we spotlight below.

Highlights

  • National Popular Vote’s big win in New York State 
  • Voter turnout task force in large county recommends ranked choice voting
  • Both Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key state legislative nomination contests
  • Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill
  • Major parties finally put forward nominees for Election Assistance Commission
  • Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) lead push to restore voting rights for people with felony convictions, and a Bipartisan Policy Center commission earns unanimous support for significant reforms
  • Both major parties back ranked choice voting ballots for overseas voters in congressional elections in five states
  • Rest of the News:
  •    Remembering Kathleen Barber 
  •    Primary turnout plummets
  •    FairVote in major media
  •    Norm Ornstein: Top 4 improves Top 2
  •    Hendrik Hertzberg’s Birthday

 

Win for National Popular Vote in New York State

In April, New York became the 11th jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, giving backers a total of 61% of the electoral votes needed to activate the compact and ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC is always elected president. With overwhelming support from both major parties in the legislature (including 27-2 among Republican state senators and 30-2 among Democratic state senators), this victory demonstrates emerging bipartisan support for a national popular vote. Read Rob Richie’s Reuters’ article here and his piece with Andrea Levien in Presidential Studies Quarterly here.

All-partisan task force in Maryland County backs ranked choice voting

Montgomery County (MD), with more residents than six states, has a history of national leadership. Last year it passed one of FairVote's Promote Our Vote resolutions, affirming support for a constitutional right to vote and a commitment to improve voter turnout. The resolution resulted in a 12-member voter turnout task force, composed of an all-partisan mix of Republicans, Democrats, minor party backers, and independents. Its impressive collection of recommendations includes FairVote ideas like moving toward 100% voter registration, a lower voting age, and independent redistricting. The task force supported adoption of ranked choice voting for all county elections 11-1 to ensure more representative outcomes and less mudslinging in campaigns. The task force proposed the instant runoff form of ranked choice voting for single member districts and fair representation version for at-large seats. The report was presented to the county council and will be the subject of hearings this fall.

Virginia Democrats and Utah Republicans use ranked choice voting in key party elections

Rip Sullivan became the Democratic nominee for Virginia's 48th state House of Delegates District - and the strong favorite to win the seat - after the Democrats used the instant runoff (IRV) form in their firehouse primary. The district includes part of Arlington County where Democrats used IRV twice this year for county nomination contests that each drew more than 3,000 voters. In Utah, Republicans have used IRV for many key nomination contests since 2002, including the nomination of Jon Huntsman for Governor and the selection of replacements for state legislators in at least five districts. Given Republicans’ fractured 2016 presidential field and the chance to implement IRV in early caucus states like Iowa, FairVote’s Drew Spencer suggests that Republicans use IRV in more of their presidential nomination contests.

Louisiana governor signs groundbreaking voter pre-registration bill

In Louisiana, voter pre-registration earned bipartisan support this year. Governor Bobby Jindal, a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, signed a youth pre-registration bill into law this May. The new legislation requires 16- and 17-year-old citizens to be automatically pre-registered to vote unless they choose not to register. It received strong bipartisan support, with a unanimous vote in the state senate, and features an innovative “opt-out” approach to registration, which will facilitate more complete and accurate voter rolls once young Louisianans reach voting age.

Bipartisan recommendations on voting from Rand Paul, Ben Cardin, and Bipartisan Policy Center

We applaud two recent national calls for reform across the aisle. Two Senators, Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), are leading a drive to restore voting rights for citizens with felony convictions, as explained on the FairVote blog. Senator Cardin’s bill, S. 2235, and Senator Paul’s bill, S. 2550, would expand voting rights in federal elections to citizens with felony convictions and establish a system to notify them of this change. In addition, both bills grant the Attorney General, the Department of Justice, and private citizens a framework to sue for full and equitable application of the law.

Last month, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform took on a full range of issues, with a number of substantive calls for change that have unanimous backing from a commission that included former U.S. Senator Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Trent Lott. They called for redistricting reform, early voting, changes in campaign finance, and reform of Congressional procedures. One particularly promising reform is the establishment of a single election day for congressional primaries. This would allow for more focused media coverage and greater public awareness.

Promised revival of Election Assistance Commission: Major parties supply nominees

Created by the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the Election Assistance Commission provides a means to achieve more national coherence in our election administration through research, promotion of best practices, and certification of recommendations for voting equipment standards. As FairVote has reported, partisan bickering has left the commission without a quorum for nearly the entire Obama presidency. Finally, the major parties have both put forward two nominees to fill the long-time empty positions on the EAC board. We hope to see confirmation votes in September, and with it, the return of a fully functioning EAC.

Bipartisan support leads to five states using ranked choice ballots in congressional elections

FairVote has helped win ranked choice voting (RCV) for municipal elections in more than a dozen American cities and in dozens of major associations and universities. We expect more chances to win RCV reform in states and cities, and we are encouraged that both major parties are using RCV in various elections. This year, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and, South Carolina provided ranked choice voting ballots to all their overseas voters in runoffs, which ultimately boosted primary voters’ participation. Louisiana's overseas and out-of-state military voters will use ranked choice ballots for congressional elections in November. See FairVote’s recent blog post and congressional testimony on the proposal.

Electoral Roundup

Thank you, Kathleen Barber: We were saddened to hear about the death of Kathleen Barber, author of one of the most important books about changing winner-take-all elections to American forms of proportional representation. A former city councilor, professor at John Carroll University, and a FairVote founding advisory committee member who spoke at our founding meeting in 1992, Dr. Barber edited a collection about the use of ranked choice voting in five Ohio cities and then a stand-alone volume. She will be missed.

Plunging primary voter turnout draws Dan Balz’s welcome attention: The Committee for the Study of the American Electorate has given a mid-term report card for turnout in congressional and state primary elections this year – and we’re flunking! In the 25 states with statewide primaries for Senate and/or governor, turnout has declined from 18.3% of eligible voters in the 2010 midterm elections to just 14.8% this year. Turnout in 15 states was the lowest ever. The Washington Post’s senior political reporter Dan Balz highlighted the CSAE report, calling on candidates to say more about their plans to encourage participation. See our web resources on voter turnout and Promote Our Vote project to learn more.

FairVote in the media: Our executive director Rob Richie has recently been quoted in publications like the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and The Boston Globe. Richie and FairVote's research intern Duncan Hosie also published Huffington Post articles about low and unrepresentative turnout in California and reforms to boost turnout. Hosie also commemorated the 166th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention in a post on our Representation 2020 website. Our board chair Krist Novoselic talked about FairVote during an hour-long interview on Reason TV, and board member Michael Lind featured fair representation voting in Salon.

Norm Ornstein touts Top Four with ranked choice voting over Top Two: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called for the nation to adopt California-style Top Two primaries in a New York Times commentary. While we congratulate Schumer for seeking to change our broken system, our recent California primary analysis shows how the Top Two system is problematic due to split votes and low turnout in primaries that reduce November choices to just two candidates. A better alternative is the Top Four system, which would advance four candidates and use ranked choice voting in November. We were pleased to see prominent scholar Norm Ornstein tout this idea in detail on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio.

Happy birthday, Hendrik Hertzberg: We toast our long-time board member Hendrik Hertzberg, who celebrated his birthday this month. Rick has written eloquently in The New Yorker and The New Republic about proportional representation, instant runoff voting, and the National Popular Vote plan; keep up with his latest on his New Yorker blog.


          Did Sen. McConnell Choose the “BCRA” Name for His Health Care Law to Stick It to McCain-Feingold Supporters?   
A reader emails with an interesting theory: Plenty of pundits (presumably non-ELB readers) have recently puzzled aloud about the title that Majority Leader McConnell gave to the Senate substitute to the American Health Care Act (“weirdly named,” said Ryan Grim). … Continue reading
          Reformer: Is Your State Representative? See Where Your State Stands.    

A newsletter to keep you informed about all things election reform from FairVote. Visit this page to read the Reformer online. For more updates on FairVote’s work, visit our website and find us on Facebook and Twitter. Stay informed by signing up for more updates.


The Reformer: States of Reform Issue June 16, 2014

FairVote is an electoral reform leader with a strong vision of where we want to go and practical strategies for how to get there. We value research and analysis, regularly adding posts to our blog and website research section.

Highlights

  • Updated Monopoly Politics 2014 Report projects 371 House races and showcases a reform plan for your state
  • Washington Post editorial suggests time for fair representation voting
  • Report shows State of Women's Representation in your state
  • Massachusetts enacts voter pre-registration
  • Colorado reformer improves on Top Two primary model
  • New FairVote report shows the value of National Popular Vote
  • Second California jurisdiction adopts a fair representation system this year
  • Task force in county of 1 million recommends ranked choice voting
  • FairVote is hiring a new program director and welcomes new colleagues

 


Understanding House Elections: Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution

We urge you to visit the interactive map and comprehensive state-by-state profiles in Monopoly Politics 2014 and the Fair Voting Solution. Recently updated with analyses of open seats, the report allows you to know whether you live in one of the 371 districts already projected for one candidate in November and why. In 1997, we influenced a generation of political analysts by publicizing a way to categorize the partisan leans of House districts, and this latest update builds upon our 20-year history of reporting on House elections.The report also showcases state plans for achieving a better democracy through fair representation voting and details what our analysis means for issues like redistricting, campaign finance, and voting rights. Take a look tosee where your state stands, and come back on November 6 to see a list of projected winners in more than 380 of 435 districts for the 2016 House elections.

Washington Post editorial on June 15 suggests time for multi-member districts for Congress: The lead editorial in the Washington Post yesterday was entitled Blending Red and Blue, with a subheading "Americans want lawmakers to work together, which may require changing the political system." The author states: “Rebuilding the political center might require more radical measures such as the revival of at-large or multi-member congressional districts, which used to be common in many states." The editorial does not assume use of fair representation voting, but such systems are clearly the best way to achieve the goals of the editorial. In the past two years, the Post has published two commentaries by FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie that made the case for fair representation voting.

A note on Eric Cantor's defeat: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s June 10th primary loss was truly remarkable, but its shocking nature underscores how most primary elections are noncompetitive. Cantor is only the second House incumbent to lose this year, and 99% incumbent success in primaries is the norm. Most incumbents win easy primary victories and then easy general elections -- more than 97% of all House incumbents can be expected to return to Congress next year despite low ratings. We have more to say on our blog, but Cantor's defeat was not due to the “usual suspects” of closed primaries, redistricting and campaign spending.


 Representation of Women: The State of Women’s Representation 2013-2014

Our Representation 2020 project has produced a great resource, with extensive analysis and state-by-state profiles about representation of women in elected office and strategies for achieving parity: State of Women’s Representation 2013-2014.

Women seem poised this year for gains in Congress (currently 83% men) and potentially governorships (90% men), and many are winning nominations in certain House districts that are safe for their party. Women will be competitive in several statewide races, including Republican Senate candidates Joni Ernst (IA) and Terri Lynn Land (MI) and Democratic Senate candidates Alison Lundergan Grimes (KY) and Michelle Nunn (GA).One example of a likely U.S. House winner is Bonnie Watson Coleman, who won herprimary election for New Jersey’s 12th district on June 3rd. Running in a heavily Democratic district, she is expected to be New Jersey’s first African American woman elected to Congress. She almost certainly will be joined by Mia Love, an African American Republican in Utah. More women of all parties should be elected to Congress and represented in our government. To learn more, visit our Representation 2020 website.


FairVote Reforms Moving in the States

FairVote often works to pass legislation and ballot measures, but our greatest influence has come from developing policy ideas, introducing them to key players, and proposing strategies to win them. Here are recent examples:

Massachusetts adopts voter pre-registration for 16-year-olds: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed a strong election reform law that includes voter pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds. A decade ago, FairVote identified this policy as a way to achieve the goal of getting young voters registered as they reach voting age, and played a direct role in winning it in Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. We also play supportive role in Colorado, Delaware and Florida. We congratulate MassVote and Common Cause Massachusetts for their leadership in the multi-year campaign in Massachusetts.

 Fixing top two primary systems with ranked choice voting and the Colorado innovation: In a recent Innovative Analysis, we wrote about primary elections and how to fix them. Voter turnout is plunging in primaries, and is far less representative than the November electorate. One proposal, the “top two primary system,” addresses real problems by increasing voter choice in primaries. But it also has unfortunate, correctable problems, as we explain in a timely review of this month's Top Two primary in California.

The Coalition for a New Colorado Election System is circulating a ballot measure that largely corrects the downsides of the California Top Two system – the key innovation being advancing more candidates and relying on ranked choice voting (“instant runoff”) in November. See our team’s detailed analysis of the Colorado plan. We also like key elements of the proposal developed by Nevada's Doug Goodman, who is gaining support from legislators and publishing op-eds.

National Popular Vote looks forward after big New York win / Listen to new podcast: FairVote has played an important role backing the National Popular Vote plan and is thrilled with this spring's big win in New York State. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the National popular Vote, it is a state-based means of achieving a presidential election. The candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and DC will win the presidency. This plan is on target to be in place for the 2020 election. To learn more about the plan, listen to a great radio podcast with MoveOn.org’s Ben Wikler that features FairVote Board Member Hendrik Hertzberg of the New Yorker magazine, and read this Presidential Studies Quarterly article by FairVote’s Rob Richie and Andrea Levien. Richie and Levien also coauthored a report last week that debunks one of the primary myths about the National Popular Vote: that candidates will only spend their time in major cities. 

California jurisdiction adopts fair representation voting system: California’s Santa Clarita Community College District has agreed to move elections to November of even years and to extend cumulative voting rights to resolve a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) case. The District also volunteered to host informational sessions for potential candidates. Board president Michele Jenkins said, “This is a fair settlement that ... promotes greater participation.” Read FairVote’s news release about an agreement earlier this year to extend cumulative voting rights in city council elections in Santa Clarita (a growing city of 180,000) and our amicus brief submitted in a CVRA case in January.

Promote Our Vote success in Montgomery County leads to support for ranked choice voting: We’re thrilled with the work of the Voter Turnout Task Force in Montgomery County, the Maryland county of a million people where our office is located. The task force, which was Montgomery Countycreated after the county council unanimously passed its version of our Promote Our Vote resolutions,recommends a slew of great pro-suffrage ideas, including extending voting rights to more residents and adopting ranked choice voting for all county elections. Stay tuned on what the council does with these recommendations.

Voters in Takoma Park back FairVote-supported reforms like ranked choice voting: FairVote conducted a survey of voters during Takoma Park’s Ward 3 special election for city council. The survey focused on respondents’ opinions of Takoma Park’s suffrage laws and their views on the city's innovative voting policies. Our overview of the results tells the full story, but a few highlights: in the hotly contested race, 49% of voters said there were fewer examples of candidates criticizing one another while 2% said more, and of those with an opinion about city practices, 93% support ranked choice voting, 89% back Election Day registration, 80% back voting rights for noncitizens, 76% support voting rights for all citizen residents with felony convictions, 75% support guaranteed candidate access to apartment buildings and 72% support voting rights for 16 and 17-year-olds. And once again, more 16 and 17-year-olds voted than all 18 to 30-year-olds combined.

We also did an exit survey last month when more than 3,000 Arlington County (VA) Democrats voted in a firehouse primary with ranked choice voting. This contested race needed an instant runoff to determine the winner, and the system was widely praised. We will release our survey results later this year. We also have been tracking the growing use of ranked choice voting in elections on campuses (used in more than 50 American colleges and universities, as discussed in our recent pieces on RCV elections in UCLA and Oregon State) and organizations (including many major associations, and also the Academy Award Oscar for Best Picture).



Inside FairVote: We’re Hiring, Welcomes & Farewells, Marathon Success

 FairVote’s hiring a new program director: We are looking for a talented and experienced leader to help lead our growing team. See our job announcement for a program director to work in our Takoma Park office.

FairVote crosses the “marathon” finish line: Thanks to the many generous contributions we received from supporters like you, we were able to achieve our donation challenge of $26,200 for Executive Director Rob Richie’s First Marathon – with each dollar matched by FairVote board members. But we still have a long way to go to reach our First Million goal. To contribute or learn more, visit our donations page.

FairVote submits testimony and on the road: Our Executive Director Rob Richie submitted testimony about innovations for overseas voters to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in May and FairVote chair Krist Novoselic addressed the Libertarian Party of Washington. Rob also was a featured speaker at a May forum of the League of Women of Voters of DC, a Stanford conference on electoral reform, our Oakland ranked choice voting forum, and a New York City ranked choice voting briefing. 

FairVote bids farewell to staff members and welcomes new additions: We have hired a remarkable group of eight Democracy Fellows, who will join our team in September. We welcome Rebecca Hellmich, who has begun her fellowship, and a terrific crew of summer interns (pictured to the right) who are already making excellent contributions to our FairVote blog. We also wish the best to 2013-2014 fellow Amanda Gaynor, who has a great new job, and to departing research and policy staffers Devin McCarthy and Andrea Levien, who will be entering graduate school this fall. Their contributions have been innumerable, and they will be missed.

 

 

 

 


          NJ S181-Act Concerning Snowplow/De-Icing Service Contracts in Community Associations   
The New Jersey state Senate passed the bill 181, authored by Senator Christopher Bateman(Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), by a vote of 35-0 on January 23, 2017. The bill, if passed by the Assembly and signed into law by the Governor, will render void and unenforceable any indemnification/hold harmless language in a contract with a snowplow... Continue Reading
          Democrats send union negotiation bill to Rauner   
The Democrat-led Illinois Senate has approved a measure that would allow an outside arbitrator to settle state-employee wages and working conditions if union negotiations reach an impasse.
          BWW Review: 1070 at Herberger Theater Center   
In the New Carpa Theater production of 1070: WE WERE ONCE STRANGERS TOO, director-playwright James Garcia focuses on an immigrant Mexican family caught in the (sometime literal) crosshairs of Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

In 2010, Arizona lawmakers passed and then-Governor Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070. This bill empowered law enforcement officers to stop, detain or arrest individuals suspected of being (or anyone sheltering, hiring or transporting) unregistered aliens.

Garcia says of his characters, "A lot of the names are 'echos' of names...but it's not a documentary." His governor is called Stewart (Sandra Williams) not Brewer, but Sen. King does resemble Russell Pearce, and Sheriff Romano could easily be mistaken for Joe Arapaio (Jeffrey Middleton plays both roles).

Putting a brave face on the Avila family is undocumented daughter Dulce (a very promising Anna Flores). We see what she sees, feel what she feels, as she becomes an activist for civil rights -- rights that many other nationalities have fought for too.

When protestors chant "Todos somos iguales" (We are all equal), we should be reminded that nearly 25 million Europeans migrated to America after 1880 -- a mere 32 years after Mexico ceded most of what would become Arizona.

Dulce's mother (Sonia Rodriguez), father (Juan Gomez), sister (Valerie German) and brother (Angel Lopez) are well cast and each plays a key role in the family dynamic.

Co-director Alejandro Sanchez Vega does an outstanding job as the rogue deputy. His scenes with younger sister Viri and then her family are raw and disturbing.

In addition to thanking his cast and crew, Garcia acknowledged Herberger Theater Center CEO Mark Mettes for helping mount 1070 in time for the National Council of La Raza national conference in July. NCLR had organized a boycott of Arizona in 2010.

"We can't just say (that) we want a broader audience without reasons for people to come," added Mettes. "So, it seemed like a great collaboration."

1070 runs through July 2 on the Kax Stage and from July 7-9 on Stage West. Tickets are available at www.herbergertheater.org/calendar/1070.


          Photo Flash: Meet Avila Family - Protagonists of 1070 'We were strangers once, too'   

"1070", a new play by James Garcia, premieres at the Herberger Theater Center on June 23 with performances running through July 9th. Tickets are $15 - $25 and are on sale now at herbergertheater.org.

In this full-length drama, Dulce Avila and her family faces life after the passage of the passage of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

"Ultimately, immigration is about the people it affects, and regrettably that's often when folks start arguing over the topic," said Garcia. "The play explores the consequences the law had on one family, as well as the wider community, including what happened in political and economic circles. I think most people today agree that SB 1070 put Arizona on the map for all the wrong reasons, and we're still recovering from the black eye it left on our state's reputation."

An immigrant family faces life after the passage of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070. The play explores the social and political fallout of the now infamous law that put Arizona on the map for all of the wrong reasons.

high res photos
Viri (Valerie German), Dulce' sister is deported.
Danny (Angel Lopez) is the only family member who was born in USA.
Mother and daughter. Anna Flores is playing Dulce (daughter) and Sonia Rodriguez is Chelo (mother)
What would you do as a father when you'r family is falling apart? Juan Gomez plays Miguel.
Meet Dulce and see how she and her family face life after the passage of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

          1070 Approaches Opening at Herberger Theater   

 

"1070", a new play by James Garcia, premieres at the Herberger Theater Center on June 23 with performances running through July 9th. Tickets are $15 - $25 and are on sale now at herbergertheater.org.

In this full-length drama, Dulce Avila and her family faces life after the passage of the passage of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

"Ultimately, immigration is about the people it affects, and regrettably that's often when folks start arguing over the topic," said Garcia. "The play explores the consequences the law had on one family, as well as the wider community, including what happened in political and economic circles. I think most people today agree that SB 1070 put Arizona on the map for all the wrong reasons, and we're still recovering from the black eye it left on our state's reputation."

Anna Flores, "Dulce Avila"

The play stars Anna Flores, currently a student at Arizona State University, and a graduate of Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. Flores began performing at Carl Hayden when she was 16.

"I'm so grateful to be a part of this production," said Flores, "not only because I think it's a great part and a great play, but because as Dulce Avila, my character, I find myself experiencing on stage many of the same experiences my own family and friends have gone through. The sad thing is that it seems to be happening all over again."

The play will be staged over three weekends at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe in Phoenix. It opens in the KAX Theater June 23 to July 2. Then for the final weekend, July 8-10, "1070" will move to the larger Stage West venue in the Herberger to accommodate what Garcia predicts will be larger audiences, including some of the people registered to attend the annual National Council de La Raza (NCLR) convention in Phoenix.

Garcia said more than four thousand people are expected to register for the convention. NCLR, which was founded in Phoenix in 1969, is the nation's largest Latino advocacy organization.

After SB 1070 passed, NCLR, now based in Washington, D.C., led a national economic boycott against Arizona. NCLR President Janet Murguia has said the organization agreed to return to Arizona because of the progress the state has made countering the damaging effects of SB 1070.

"I think it says a lot that NCLR is willing to bring its convention to Arizona, even though we know things are far from perfect," said Garcia. "For one thing, there's the new wave of attacks aimed at immigrants by Trump. It remind us that immigration is a national and even global issue that's unresolved. Sadly, there are literally millions of immigrants and their families who are living in fear thanks of Trump's cruel and bigoted agenda. One of the things I hope this play does is speak not only to the extraordinary pain and damage that laws like 1070 wreake, but that good people in Arizona and around the country, many with very different backgrounds, have been willing over the years to fight back."

Dates & Times: June 23 - July 9, 2017, Friday and Saturday night performances at7:30 p.m., and Sunday afternoon matinee, 2 p.m. The show is two hours and 15 minutes long.

Tickets are $15 to $25, and $5 off for students and seniors 65 and up. All NCLR convention registrants receive the discounted student/senior rate.

To buy tickets: www.herbergertheater.org

Opening Night Dinner Reception: June 23 at 5:30 pm, Arizona Latino Arts Cultural Center, 147 E. Adams, Phoenix. The package is $40 which includes wine or beer and tickets to the show. Catering provided by Chef Lorenzo Santillan.

Location: Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix, AZ 85004 (KAX Theater, June 23-July 2 and Stage West theater July 8-10, 2017)

Presented by: New Carpa Theater Co. (www.newcarpa.org) and Sociedad Activa (https://www.sociedadactiva.mx) in association with the Herberger Theater Center.

About New Carpa Theater Co.

New Carpa Theater Co. was founded in 2002. The nonprofit troupe presents new works by established and emerging Latino and multicultural artists. James E. Garcia is the founder and producing artistic director of New Carpa and the author of more than 30 plays. He has an MFA in Creative Writing/Playwriting from Arizona State University.

James E. Garcia Biography

James is a journalist, playwright and a Valley-based media and communications consultant. He is the director of communications and strategic public policy for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Creative Vistas Media. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, foreign correspondent and television and radio commentator. He was the founding editor of Latino Perspectives Magazine in Phoenix; the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, the Valley's National Public Radio affiliate; and the first Latino editor of major alternative news weekly in the U.S., the San Antonio Current. Mr. Garcia also has taught ethnic studies, Latino politics and creative and journalistic writing courses at Arizona State University. An accomplished playwright and theater producer, James is the founder and producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co., which stages Latino and multicultural works. He is an actor, director and author of more than 30 plays. His upcoming play, "1070", premieres in June 2017 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. His most recent works include "Land of a Thousand Dances" (about the 60s East L.A. rock band, Cannibal and the Headhunters), "Mallecho" (a modern adaptation of Hamlet by William Shakespeare set in Texas politics), and "American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Raul H. Castro" (Arizona's only ever Hispanic governor). His media and communications consulting clients have included Chispa Arizona, Mesa Public Schools, the Smithsonian Institution, One Arizona, Promise Arizona, Ohio Against Hate, the Arizona Opera, Gina's Team, the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center, the family of former Arizona Gov. Raul H. Castro, and United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona. You can contactJames at jgcvm1@gmail.com or call 623-252-2772.


 


          HB 736 by Rep. Phil King   

Please be advised that our Texas legislation was filed by Representative Phil King (R- Weatherford) -- HB 736. Senator Kelly Hancock (R- Fort Worth) with file the senate bill.  Here is a link to the bill:  HB 736   The final language which will clarify landmen as independent contractors and clarify that landmen are not subject to sales tax.  Should we get bogged down with the sales tax language, we may need to let it go.  However, at this time, we have the support of the Texas Comptroller's Office and are hopeful we will be able to keep it. I have pasted some additional points below explaining why we are seeking the change. 

 

HB 736 by Rep. Phil King

 

Currently, the Texas Labor Code defines what constitutes a landman, acting as an independent contractor, for purposes of determining unemployment benefits.  To be classified as an independent contractor, the landman must be an individual who is 1) engaged in landman services; 2) is paid for the performance based on completion of specific contracted for tasks and not based on hours worked; and 3) paid pursuant to a written contract.

 

It is the provision in item #2 listed above relating to the “completion” of the tasks that has generated some ambiguity in the interpretation of the landman independence standing and has resulted in at least two Texas Workforce Commission cases challenging the independent contractor status of landmen in specific instances.

 

HB 736 clarifies that the work performed under a written contract does not constitute “employment” if the individual 1) is working as an independent contractor; and 2) the employer does not determine the means and methods of the work being performed; and 3) the landman’s compensation of the contracted services is directly related to the performance of the services.

 

HB 736 also, for consistency purposes, amends the definitional provisions in the Tax Code.  The amendments made in this bill are a clarification of existing law.


          In final weeks of Senate career, Hutchison battles for Texas tax breaks   
As one of her final legislative initiatives, outgoing Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is leading a coalition of senators from income tax-free states with the goal of maintaining a federal tax break for their constituents. Residents of states that raise revenue through income taxes can deduct the amount of they paid to their state government
          Cruising the Web   
I never thought that Trump's travel order was necessary, but I didn't doubt that he had the power to issue that order. Given that he first issued the order about five months ago and it was only temporary while the administration figured out new vetting procedures for issuing visas. Well, that original time has now just about elapsed and there are going to be three to four months until the Supreme Court hears the case. So, the whole question may become moot by then if the administration actually does what it said it was going to do.

Jonathan Turley chastises the legal pundits and appellate judges who thought that the order wasn't within the president's executive authority.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing.
Turley argues quite accurately that Trump's persona and his own attacks on the media have driven the media so crazy is that they've dropped their supposed standards and ethics. The same appeared to be happening with the lower courts.
For those of us who have long argued that the legal authority supported Trump, the order was belated but not surprising. However, the order does offer a brief respite for some self-examination for both legal commentators, and frankly, the courts. At times the analysis surrounding the immigration order seemed to drop any pretense of objectivity and took on the character of open Trump bashing....

The court ruled “when it comes to refugees who lack any such connection to the United States, for the reasons we have set out, the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security.” The preliminary ruling on this type of stay indicates that, when the final merits are decided, a majority of the court is likely to make the changes permanent and binding.

Indeed, three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — did not want any limitation on lifting the injunction and dissented from that part of the opinion. To use Johnson’s rhetoric, the date of the hanging is set for the October term absent a dramatic shift on the court. That gives us some time to contemplate how this controversy has impacted our core institutions.

I previously wrote that Trump seems at times to bring out the worst of people — supporters and opponents alike. Yet, his signature attacks often cause people to fulfill the very stereotypes that he paints, particularly among some reporters and judges. Ironically, Trump’s attacks on the media as biased may not have been true at the outset but they are true now. Mainstream media have become openly hostile to Trump.

There is often little distinction on some cable networks between the hosts and their guests in attacking Trump, who brings much of this criticism on himself in ill-considered and often insulting attacks. However, the media is trained to resist such personal emotions and retain objectivity. Throughout much of its history, it has done precisely that ... until Donald Trump.

He seems like the itch that reporters and commentators just have to scratch and frankly sometimes it seems like a few are enjoying it too much. With ratings soaring, hosts and legal experts have shown little interest or patience in the legal arguments supporting his case, even though the Obama administration advanced similar arguments in court.

The hostile (and often distorted) analysis in the media was disconcerting but predictable, given the trend toward greater opinion-infused coverage. Networks are fighting for greater audience shares based on formulaic coverage — offering echo-chamber analysis to fit the ideological preferences of viewers. For the anti-Trump networks, the legal analysis is tellingly parallel with the political analysis. These cable shows offer clarity to viewers in a world without nuance. The law, however, often draws subtle distinctions and balancing tests. In this way, viewers are being given a false notion of the underlying legal issues in these controversies.

What has been more concerning is the impact of Trump on the courts. Trump shocked many in both parties by his personal attacks on judges as well as general disrespect shown to our courts. These were highly inappropriate and inaccurate statements from a president. However, once again, courts seemed to immediately become the very stereotype that Trump was painting.

Of course, the White House gave the courts a target-rich environment in the first travel order, which was poorly drafted, poorly executed and poorly defended. Yet, the courts did not just strike those portions that were problematic. Where existing case law requires courts to use a scalpel in striking down provisions, judges pulled out a meat ax. They enjoined the entirety of the order while lashing out at Trump’s most sensational campaign rhetoric....

In the Fourth and Ninth Circuits, judges brushed over the obvious improvements and again relied on Trump’s own comments and tweets. It seemed like sensational tweets were more important than long-standing precedent or official statements from the administration.

The level of reliance on campaign statements by the courts was wrong in my view, as I have repeatedly stated. The record had conflicting statements from Trump and his associates but courts seemed to cherry-pick statements, relying on those that fulfilled their narrative while ignoring those that did not. The analysis of the order should have turned largely on the face of the document. While such political statements can be relevant to analysis (particularly in areas like racial discrimination), the court has always minimized such reliance in favor of more objective textual analysis.
That doesn't mean that the order was good policy. But the basis on which the lower courts decided was to stretch the law just to deliver a blow to Trump.
Courts that once gave President Obama sweeping discretion in the immigration field seemed categorically opposed to considering the same accommodation for President Trump. For commentators, viewers were given a highly distorted view of the existing law — brushing aside decades of cases while supporting the notion that a major federal policy could live or die by the tweet.
The Supreme Court notably didn't pay any attention to Trump's statements. If all you knew about the executive order was what you heard in the MSM, you would be amazed that the Supreme Court struck down most of the injunctions against the implementation of the order. The media will have to search out

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Andrew McCarthy explains why the Supreme Court order on the travel order is not as big a deal as perhaps President Trump would like to brag.
This ruling is unworkable and actually doesn’t much narrow the lower-court stays.

Let’s try to keep it simple here. The lower courts granted standing to challenge the travel ban to American persons and entities that had special relationships with aliens outside the United States. Ostensibly, the lower courts claimed that the rights of these Americans were harmed by the travel ban’s exclusion of aliens — specifically, aliens who a) are close relatives whose exclusion would deny family reunification to an American; or b) are scholars whose exclusion would deprive their contributions to American universities that had extended offers to them. In effect, however, the lower courts were vicariously granting American legal rights to aliens outside the United States, despite the judges’ grudging admission that the aliens technically had no such rights.

In its order this morning, the Supreme Court did not disturb this arrangement.

To be sure, the justices rejected the lower courts’ extension of vicarious rights to aliens who did not have such special “bona fide relationships” with American persons or entities. The lower courts’ reasoning for that extension heavily relied on the imputation to Trump of anti-Muslim bias — that’s part of why we can infer that most of the justices are not persuaded by that rationale. Nevertheless, six of the nine justices, at least for now, appear inclined to rule that Americans in these “bona fide relationships” with aliens have not only standing but legal interests sufficiently compelling to block enforcement of presidential orders that address national-security threats.
Read the rest of his post for the evidence he marshals to criticize the Supreme Court's Monday ruling.

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Rich Lowry refutes the idea that the GOP health care bills are doing anything all that radical in reforming Medicaid. What was radical is how the program expanded on Obama.
The Democrats now make it sound as if the Obama expansion is part of the warp and woof of Medicaid. In fact, it was a departure from the norm in the program, which since its inception has been, quite reasonably, limited to poor children, pregnant women, the disabled and the ailing elderly. ObamaCare changed it to make a priority of covering able-bodied adults.

ObamaCare originally required states to enroll able-bodied adults with incomes less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line starting in 2014. The Supreme Court re-wrote the law to make the expansion voluntary, and 31 states and the District of Columbia took it up.

Traditionally, the federal government had paid more to poor than rich states, with a match ranging from 75 percent for the poorest state, Mississippi, to 50 percent for the rich states. ObamaCare created an entirely new formula for the Medicaid expansion population. It offered a 100 percent federal match for the new enrollees, gradually declining to a 90 percent match — supposedly, forever.

So, perversely, ObamaCare had a larger federal match for the able-bodied enrollees in Medicaid than for its more vulnerable populations.

“This higher federal matching rate,” writes health-care analyst Doug Badger, “allows states to leverage more federal money per state dollar spent on a non-disabled adult with $15,000 in earnings than on a part-time minimum-wage worker with developmental disabilities, who earns barely half that amount.”

According to Badger, West Virginia received seven times as much federal money for spending $1 on an able-bodied adult than for spending $1 on a disabled person.

This obviously makes no sense, and the Senate health-care bill phases out the enhanced funding over four years. But it doesn’t end the expanded Medicaid eligibility for the able-bodied. And a refundable tax credit will be available for low-income people that is meant to pick up any slack from Medicaid. This is hardly social Darwinism.
THe other change is a change in how the federal government funds Medicaid in the states.
The other, longer-term change in the House and Senate bills is moving to a per-capita funding formula for Medicaid, with the Senate bill ratcheting the formula down to per-capita growth plus the inflation rate — in 2026. Maybe this will prove too stringent, but it used to be a matter of bipartisan consensus that the current structure of Medicaid creates an incentive for heedless growth in the program.

The way it works now is that Mississippi, for instance, gets nearly $3 from the federal government for every $1 it spends. Why ever economize? In the 1990s, the Clinton administration advanced what it portrayed as an unobjectionable proposal to make Medicaid more efficient while preserving the program’s core function — namely, a per-capita funding formula.
So remember all this when you hear Democrats moaning that the GOP is set to kill millions of people. As Lowry analogizes, for progressives, the welfare state has become the equivalent of the Brezhnev Doctrine that once the Soviets dominated a country, it could never break free. Now once the welfare state has been expanded, it should never be trimmed back.

Guy Benson is also trying to refute the Democrats' demagogic hysteria about the Senate plan.
Republicans' plan would make Medicaid fiscally sustainable, and gradually revert back to a model that prioritizes help to the poorest people, who need the most help. It's perverse that the federal government provides a more generous funding formula for Medicaid's better-off, better-situated expansion enrollees than the original, neediest population for whom Medicaid was supposedly created in the first place. And while the GOP proposal would reform the structure of the program by offering a capped per-capita annual allowance to each state (which would foster restraint, prioritization, innovation, and creativity), the notion that it makes drastic "cuts" to the overall program is deeply misleading. ...

This funding increase of tens of billions of dollars is nevertheless cast as a "cut" because it would spend less than Obamacare would.

Just imagine what the media would be saying if Claire McCaskill were a member of Trump's administration.
n March, Sen. Claire McCaskill was unambiguous. The Missouri Democrat said she never once met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in her 10 years serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"No call or meeting w/Russian ambassador. Ever," McCaskill tweeted. "Ambassadors call members of Foreign [Relations Committee]."
Soon after that tweet, it was revealed she did interact with the Russian ambassador.

And now, CNN has learned, McCaskill spent an evening at a black-tie reception at the ambassador's Washington residence in November 2015.

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Yesterday I speculated that the Supreme Court's ruling in the Trinity Lutheran case might be used to overturn states' Blaine amendments blocking state aid to schools with a religious affiliation. Well, it seems that that was indeed the Court's intention with an order remanding a case back to the lower courts that they issued on Tuesday. The WSJ reports,
In 2011, Colorado’s Douglas County adopted a Choice Scholarship Program to let 500 students attend a local private school. But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union sued. The Colorado Supreme Court killed the program citing the state’s version of the Blaine Amendment, one of many state anti-Catholic laws from the 1800s to prevent public money from funding religious schools ( Doyle v. Taxpayers for Public Education).

The Douglas County School District and the Institute for Justice, which represents three families in Colorado, appealed to the Supreme Court in 2015, but the Justices held the petition pending the resolution of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer on Monday. On Tuesday the Court vacated and remanded Doyle to the lower court for reconsideration in keeping with Trinity Lutheran’s holding that Missouri’s application of the Blaine Amendment violated the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

The High Court typically vacates and remands only when the Justices think there is a “reasonable probability” that the lower court got it wrong. Colorado’s do-over is a warning to other states that might use Blaine Amendments to derail school choice programs that threaten teachers unions and the public school monopoly.
I'm for as much choice as possible in education. I've seen what it means at the charter school where I teach and at the charters in Washington, D.C. where my daughter has worked. The more opportunities there are for students to get out of bad schools and for their parents to choose other options, the better.
The win comes at a good time for school choice advocates who have been building momentum in the states. In May three families successfully challenged a Montana rule that prevented a voucher program from being used at religious schools. On Monday the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld a program of tax credits for scholarships to some 13,000 students to attend private schools.

School choice is spreading because parents want the chance to get their child a better education than they receive in local public schools. Sometimes that enhanced opportunity is offered by religious schools, and the First Amendment does not allow the state to discriminate on the basis of religion.

          SAMHSA PATH Organizational Sign-On Letter   

The Alliance, along with its national partners, circulated an organizational sign-on letter to Chairpersons of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees and Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittees to spare critical SAMHSA homeless programs from harmful funding cuts, particularly the PATH program. These programs are an important part of the network of services for homeless persons with severe mental illness. This is the final letter.


          August 2015 Site Visit Campaign   

As part of the FY 2016 Homelessness Funding Campaign, the Alliance is launching an August 2015 Site Visit Campaign to encourage advocates across the country to engage with their Members of Congress while they are home for the August recess. The Campaign aims to:

  • Raise awareness among the public and Congress about the issue of and solutions to homelessness;
  • Educate Congress on the need for increased resources for HUD's McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and Housing Choice Vouchers and to ensure that it provides enough funding for these programs; and    
  • Ask Members to lift budget caps to allow appropriators to increase resources for homeless assistance and affordable housing programs in the final FY 2016 spending bill. Specifically ask them to commit to communicate the messages that “providing $2.480 billion for the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program in FY 2016, including $40 million for homeless youth initiatives, and sufficient funding to renew all existing Housing Choice Vouchers and an additional $512 million to restore vouchers lost to sequestration are high priorities” to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The best ways advocates can achieve these goals are by taking the below actions:

1. Host A Member for a Site Visit

2. Conduct In-District Congressional Meetings

If your Members do not have time in their schedules to attend site visits, or if you do not have the capacity to plan one, the next best thing you can do to engage your Members this August is to conduct in-district (or state) congressional meetings. The Alliance has materials to help you plan and execute these meetings, including the following (that denoted with a * is specifically meant for use during the August 2015 Site Visit Campaign):

We are happy to work with you every step of the way to help you customize these materials, strategize about which Members of Congress to engage, and with anything else for which you may need assistance. Please contact Julie Klein or Jaime Colman to get involved!


          Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing on Russian Interference in European Elections    

The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing on Russian interference in European elections.

 

Panel

  • Ambassador Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School of Government (Testimony)
  • Janis Sarts, Director, NATO Strategic Communication Center of Excellence (Testimony)
  • Ambassador Vesko Garcevic, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Boston University (Testimony)
  • Constanze Stelzenueller, Bosch Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution (Testimony)

          Today's Headlines and Commentary    

The ongoing ransomware attack across Europe, the United States, and Asia has raised concerns over the growing frequency of large-scale cyberattacks, The New York Times writes. The NotPetya attack is the second worldwide ransomware hacking since May, when the WannaCry virus disrupted the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. The Times runs through what we know and don’t yet know about the malware.

The Journal reports on Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s comments that the lack of a chemical weapons attack showed that the Trump administration’s warning to the Assad regime in Syria worked. Late on Monday, the U.S. threatened to use force against Syria in the case of another chemical attack after the Pentagon saw indications that an attempt may have been looming. Politico describes the process behind the drafting and release of the administration’s abrupt warning: while Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were all involved, the statement left numerous top officials across the State and Defense Departments blindsided.

The White House may shift the State Department’s bureaus of Consular Affairs and Population, Refugees, and Migration to the Department of Homeland Security, CNN tells us. A White House official indicated that the proposal resulted from a “brainstorming session” dedicated to “improving efficiencies across government,” and is not yet a formal plan.

The Trump administration is considering taking a harsher stance on its relations with Pakistan in an effort to cut back Pakistani support for militant groups that have used the country as a base from which to conduct attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, Reuters reports. Options on the table include increased drone strikes, withholding of aid, and weakening Pakistan’s status as a U.S. ally. In a separate report released Tuesday, the Pentagon indicated that Pakistan was the most significant external factor affecting Afghan stability through governmental support of the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The Pakistani embassy in the United States warned the U.S. against using it as a “scapegoat” to explain challenges in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the Qatari Foreign Minister met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a closed-door meeting in Foggy Bottom, the Post reports. The two discussed the ongoing diplomatic crisis in the Gulf, which has shown no signs of resolution following Qatar’s rejection of the list of demands presented to it by the Gulf Cooperation Council States that recently cut their ties with Qatar. The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister told the press yesterday that the demands were non-negotiable and were a prerequisite to re-engagement with Qatar. Later in the day, Tillerson also met with the Kuwaiti Minister of State, whose government has attempted to mediate the weeks-long dispute.

Oil companies have expressed concern over the Senate’s new package of Russian sanctions, which would prevent American participation in any oil production projects in which a Russian firm is involved anywhere in the globe, the Washington Post reports. But Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), who is shepherding the bill through the approval process, has said the issues can be “easily addressed.” The bill has stalled in the House over procedural concerns, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) has called on the Senate to complete a fix prior to the July 4th recess.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has been under scrutiny amidst the various probes into Russian election interference, registered retroactively as an agent of a foreign government yesterday, reports The Wall Street Journal. The disclosure to the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) unit marked an acknowledgement that a portion of Manafort’s lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych aimed to influence U.S. government officials and journalists. Manafort’s spokesman said Manafort began working with the FARA unit to navigate the registration process in September of 2016, prior to the election results and the investigation into Russian election interference.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that a Canadian court can grant an injunction anywhere in the world, if such a move is required to secure the injunction’s effectiveness, The Guardian reports. In the case, the Court forced Google to remove links to one company’s content from all versions of its search engine across the globe—not only the Canadian version—following an intellectual property dispute with a competitor. Critics fear that the decision could lead to corporations and governments increasing censorship requests that then eliminate permissible content from the entire internet, no matter the location. 

The trial of accused NSA leaker Reality Winner has been set for October, according to The Hill. Winner is charged with providing a top-secret NSA report on a 2016 Russian cyberattack on a voting software company to the news outlet The Intercept.

President Trump accepted French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to meet in Paris on July 14th in celebration of Bastille Day as well as the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entrance into World War I, CNN reports. The two are expected to discuss a wide range of issues, including coordination on counterterrorism efforts.

A helicopter attacked Venezuela’s Supreme Court yesterday, CNN reports. Prior to the attack, an ex-policeman posted a video online announcing that his group planned to launch an air and land assault to restore democracy to Venezuela. From the helicopter, attackers threw grenades and shot at the building, though no one was injured. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro activated the government security forces in response. The nation has been in the depths of a political and economic crisis which has seen many calls for a change in leadership. Some have claimed that the entire incident may have been staged by the government to generate legitimacy for a harsher crackdown on dissent.

 

 ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Charlie Savage described the changes in the new, paperback edition of his book Power Wars, which provides a history of national-security legal policymaking in the Obama era.

Paul Rosenzweig asked if the cyberattack in Ukraine yesterday was a precursor to war, but updated the post after news broke that the cause was an outbreak of the Petya ransomware.

Shane R. Reeves examined previous attempts at creating “safe zones” in Syria and argued that without serious commitment, newly proposed zones will be just as ineffective or dangerous.

J. Dana Stuster posted the Middle East Ticker, covering the recent Saudi succession shakeup, the Gulf States’ demands to Qatar, and U.S. policy in Eastern Syria.

William I. Hitchcock reviewed Melissa Feinberg’s Curtain of Lies: The Battle over Truth in Stalinist Eastern Europe (Oxford Univ. Press, 2017).

Matthew Kahn posted the video of yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Section 702 reauthorization.

Andrew Kent examined the Supreme Court’s decision in Hernandez v. Mesa.

Jack Goldsmith announced the supplement to the new edition of Foreign Relations Law: Cases and Materials (6th Ed. 2017), the casebook he co-authored with Curtis Bradley.

Daniel Byman analyzed whether Al Qaeda is in decline.

Josh Blackman looked at the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision in IRAP v. Trump.

Benjamin Wittes posted a copy of his FOIA request for internal FBI communications surrounding the firing of James Comey. 

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.


          Financial Sanctions and Penalties for Cybercrime    

As cybercrime spreads in its many mutations, governments and regulators across the globe continue to develop a variety of solutions. One regulatory method that has gained in popularity and sophistication in recent years is the financial response to cybercrime. The United States in particular has explored financial sanctions at the “front end,” to deprive cybercriminals of access to financial channels, and financial penalties at the “back end,” particularly asset forfeiture, to recover the proceeds of criminal activity. 

 

Financial Sanctions

On the “front end,” the U.S. government has sought to apply to cybercrime the financial sanctions that it has employed in the areas of terrorism finance and anti-nuclear proliferation. On April 1, 2015, then-President Obama issued Executive Order 13694 to block property in (or coming into) the U.S. that belongs to anyone designated by the government as being responsible for “cyber-enabled activities.” These activities cover significant compromises of a critical infrastructure sector, disruptions of computers or computer networks, or misappropriation of funds, trade secrets, or other information for commercial advantage. 

On December 28, 2016, President Obama amended the order with Executive Order 13757, which added another category of cyber-enabled activities for tampering with, altering, or misappropriating information to interfere with electoral processes. This amendment was added in light of allegations that Russia had interfered with the U.S. presidential election. Executive Order 13757 included an annex identifying Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, Federal Security Service, and other entities and individuals. 

The next day, December 29, 2016, the Department of the Treasury designated two other Russian individuals for theft of financial information and personal identifying information. To date, these are the only entities and individuals so designated under the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN) under the “CYBER” program of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. 

These designations send a strong message that large-scale cybercrime must be defeated by the same tools brought to bear on the war on terror.  This message was reiterated in the recent Senate bill amendment codifying these executive orders and imposing additional cybersecurity sanctions against Russia.  The broad scope of all these sanctions—which could apply to overseas organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction—could have a crippling effect on a target that depends on the world financial system. 

 

Application to China?

Commentators have suggested that these sanctions could be applied to actors in China that perhaps might be associated with the government. For example, as described in a Congressional Research Service report, there have been suggestions that the breaches of Office of Personnel Management data could be attributable to China state actors.

A number of factors could explain why the list isn’t longer. The nature of cybercrime lends itself to anonymity and the proliferation of unending identities and vehicles for attack.  Recent transnational malware and ransomware attacks suggest the ease with which cybercriminals are able to conceal their identity and co-opt third parties to transmit their attacks. Difficulties regarding attribution may also create some reluctance to oblige the numerous financial institutions and other actors subject to sanctions compliance to block an individual or entity that is difficult to identify. 

Even if those actors can be identified, there may be foreign policy and political considerations before a state entity or state-affiliated organization can be placed on the SDN list. There may also be concerns that financial sanctions may have little effect on certain cybercriminals who commit their crimes without any sort of financial motive but for more murky “hacktivist” principles. 

In the case of suspected cyber-enabled activities from China, however, it may be more likely that the U.S. government believes there is value in pursuing bilateral or multilateral official discussions, such as the U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues (or its future iteration as the bilateral Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue), or individual criminal prosecutions, which perhaps are believed to send an adequate statement of U.S. dissatisfaction with state-sponsored activities. 

 

Financial Penalties

These criminal prosecutions, along with individual asset forfeiture actions, provide another means of addressing cybercrime: the financial penalties designed to deprive wrongdoers of the financial benefits of their crime. In one recent case, the U.S. Department of Justice brought an in rem asset forfeiture action against bank accounts overseas that contained proceeds of a business email compromise scheme, in which the fraudsters impersonated a vendor to defraud a U.S. victim company. In another case, the U.S. sought to forfeit assets in foreign bank accounts that it claimed were the proceeds of a large-scale online website that unlawfully distributed copyrighted movie and television programming, music, and software (the individual claimants of the property are seeking Supreme Court review of this decision). 

Unlike financial sanctions, this remedy requires proof that the assets represent the proceeds of unlawful activity or at least that these assets belong to the alleged cybercriminals. Moreover, if the assets are overseas, the country in which the assets are located must be willing to cooperate with the United States to seize or otherwise restrain those assets pending a U.S. court order. For countries such as China, even though there is a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement that contemplates the freezing of assets, the use of that mechanism in this way remains for the most part untested. 

***

Even with these limits, financial sanctions and penalties have proven to be powerful tools.  The open nature of the U.S. economy and society provides the U.S. government with a unique lever to address cybercrime extraterritorially through international financial channels and its own international law enforcement-cooperative relationships. 


          Administrative Staff Assistant   
NY-Albany, University Faculty Senate Office The University Faculty Senate (UFS) of the State University of New York (SUNY) invites applications for the position of Administrative Staff Assistant for the UFS. The University Faculty Senate is a representative body with members from each of the 34 State-operated and statutory colleges of the SUNY system. The assistant oversees the operations of the University F
          22 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Under Senate Bill   

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The Congressional Budget Office says the number of uninsured people in the United States would rise to 22 million within the next ten years under the Senate health care bill.

The Senate’s bill would replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that former President Barack Obama supported. The Affordable Care Act is often called Obamacare. Republicans have spent about seven years attempting to cancel Obamacare.

The CBO said in a study released Monday that the Senate bill would decrease the federal budget deficit by $321 billion by 2026.

This is the second health care bill to be considered in Congress. Both the House and the Senate have different health care bills. In order for a bill to become law, it needs to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the president.

Senate leaders plan to vote after the July 4th holiday on their version of the bill. Currently, Americans are required to buy health insurance or pay a fine if they do not. The Senate’s bill would end that requirement.

In addition, the bill would end subsidies meant to help lower-income people buy insurance. It would also decrease some taxes on higher-income people. And it would cut billions of dollars of government funding for the health care program for poor and disabled people over the next few years.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. and his fellow Democratic Senators, hold photographs of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate healthcare bill

Opposition to the bill

To pass a bill in the Senate, a majority of senators must vote for the bill. If there is a tie, the vice president can vote to break the tie. Currently Republicans hold 52 of the 100 seats in the Senate. All 46 Senate Democrats are expected to vote against the bill. In order for the bill to pass, Republicans can risk losing only two of their senators.

A group of Republican senators has already said they will not vote for the bill in its current form.

When Obamacare became law in 2010, it passed without any Republican votes. Since the 2016 elections, Republicans gained control of the presidency, the House and the Senate. A change to Obamacare could be possible now.

About 20 million people have received insurance with Obamacare. Many of those people are covered under the government’s Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

The two bills to change Obamacare propose to cut about $800 billion in federal funds for Medicaid over the next few years. President Donald Trump had stated during his campaign for office that he would not cut Medicaid funding.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told ABC that he hopes that Republicans will talk with Democrats and work together on a solution to make Obamacare better.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Olivia Liu

Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English from VOA News and AP reporting. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Words in This Story

uninsured –adj. not having an agreement with a company or agency that helps pay for the cost of a service such as health care

subsidiesn. government payments to producers or individuals that reduce the cost of a good or service to make it easier to get

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          Six thoughts on the Massachusetts Senate election   
Here are my thoughts on the political thunderbolt that just landed in my home state: 1. Shortly after Coakley conceded to brown, Washington Times reporter Eli Like tweeted that a correspondent in Massachusetts had told him that “The American people … Continue reading
          The Next Four Years   

One of the few things we can all agree with is that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected President next Tuesday. Either we will have a Republican or Democratic House of Representatives and we will have either a Democratic or Republican Senate.
What exactly will happen is anyone's guess as nobody has those kinds of powers of prognostication. But prognosticate we must – not only on the outcome of the election but what it will mean if either of the two principle candidates wins.
The Republicans have invested a lot of time and money telling the American voters that if the President is re-elected expect four years of gridlock and paralysis. Their version of “gloom and doom” is not so much that Barack Obama will do irreparable harm to the country – they also say that – but that the next four years will be wasted as bickering and partisanship will continue unabated, and the important business of the American people will just not get done.
I think they are wrong.
President Barack Obama
The first Obama term was characterized by a deliberate unwillingness on the part of the Republican leadership to cooperate with the President for the express purpose, in the immortal words of Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.” The incurably petty will argue whether Mitch said this in 2009 or 2010 (he said it in 2010) but it matters little when he said it since it perfectly illustrates the Senate leader's attitude towards the President. If you examine the record you will see this strategy in action, especially in the Senate, where Mitch McConnell led a record number of filibusters which thwarted majority votes in both Chambers even when the Democrats had the majority in the House of Representatives. This was indeed government by hostage and the intent was clear. Make the President as weak and ineffectual as possible so that come election time the case could be made that he did not deliver on key pieces of legislation, especially important ones like the Jobs Bill. [see “What's Wrong with the Jobs Bill?” October 13, 2011, on this blog] Just the Jobs Bill alone would have made a big dent in our unemployment numbers, but the Republicans were not about to help the economy because that would have practically insured an Obama second term.
The History of the Filibuster
(Graph: Todd Lindeman; Data: Senate.gov)

If the president wins a second term all of that goes out the window.
Freed from the tyranny of the “one term Presidency” strategy, the Republican Senators could once again vote their conscience and do what they do best: horse-trading and seeking solutions, rather than obstruction for the sake of denying the President a second term. Not that it would spell the end of partisanship or argumentation. That was present during the founding of America and will stay with us as long as there is a Constitutional democracy in the United States. But because the overall obsession of denying Obama a second term will be gone, the Senate will return to a more “normal” state of collegiate belligerence, where both Parties understand the people expect results and cooperation, not continuous obstruction. An Obama second term will be, therefore, full of controversy, but with bipartisan solutions hammered out in vigorous debate. The American people will get a more functional government, spirited, divided, but anxious to find solutions.
President Mitt Romney?
So what can we expect from a Romney administration? Regardless of whether the Congress ends up in the hands of the Democrats or the Republicans – it looks like the Republicans will keep a smaller majority in the House, and the Democrats will retain a slim majority in the Senate – the final composition will not matter much. Especially in the Senate where Senator Harry Reid will either stay as a majority or minority leader. Either way will be lethal to a prospective Romney agenda. Senator Reid will become the second most powerful man in the country, second only to the new President himself. Does anybody have a doubt, that after all the humiliation heaped on Senator Reid for the last four years, he will not seek to turn the tables on the Republicans? It is hard to say if the good Senator from Nevada will be more dangerous as the majority or minority leader. There is no plausible scenario that the Republicans will achieve a 60+ majority in the Senate, thereby rendering the Senate filibuster proof. Even the most partisan Republican prognosticator does not contemplate such a dream scenario for the hypothetical President Romney.
So a President Romney would have in Reid an implacable foe who would not hesitate to return the favor of filibustering Republican legislation, if in the minority or just killing it outright if in the majority. In any case, Romney would reap what his party sowed with Obama these last four years and he would have Senator McConnell principally to thank for that. Four years of partisanship and gridlock would face the new President and the merry-go-round would keep turning. This is what happens when shortsighted political expediency is chosen over consensus building governance. And blaming the President for the lack of bi-partisanship is a new height of shamelessness, a new definition for chutzpah.
Romney's potential first term has disaster written all over it, and he only has his compadres in his own party to blame. On the other hand, if it were not for the high-handed conduct of Republican Senators, making the best of their minority status by denying the President a clear path to governing, Romney would not be neck to neck with the President at this late date. He would be hopelessly behind with no chance of capturing the White House.
So the McConnell strategy did work. Whether the Republicans succeeded at making the President a one term President or not we will find out soon enough.

          Ryan's Medicare Problem   
In the point, counter-point world of campaigns, much is lost in the hyperbole and obsession over details. Most issues are not black and white, so to reduce them to slogans based on one esoteric point over another, doesn't give voters a chance to properly evaluate the competing claims.
Representative Paul Ryan
The Medicare debate is particularly complicated because it involves scores of factors, many of which are difficult to control. Most slogans actually say very little that is useful to the voter. “End Medicare as we know it” is a truism that says nothing just as “government takeover of healthcare” is a falsehood that doesn’t provide any information. The first slogan, used by Democrats, is true but meaningless. It tells us nothing about what the Republicans are up to. Its intention is to scare people afraid of change, nothing more. It actually begs the question as to whether the Republican changes to Medicare are an improvement or not, thereby shutting down any effective debate. “Government takeover of healthcare” is a slogan used by Republicans to denigrate “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) which not only is a falsehood, since the ACA is actually a reform of the already existing private health insurance system, but equally shuts off debate by scaring voters into believing that the President is a closest Socialist hell bent on turning America into a big gulag.
So what then happens is the commentary class then will go into excruciating detail trying to unravel a most complex issue that requires reams of documents to explain. The result is that the public is as confused as ever, not knowing who or what to believe.
The intent of this piece is not to be an exhaustive analysis of the issues but to make a few observations as to what the philosophies are behind the various reforms. It is really up to the individual voter to read as much as possible about the various plans and their critics and come to his or her own conclusion.
However, as one who leans towards the liberal side of the equation I cannot help but notice that Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants to weed seniors away from the admittedly government-run current system to a private insurance based system much like the rest of us have, has the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the President's Affordable Care Act. An interesting twist since his partner, Mitt Romney, is staking his candidacy in large measure on the repeal of ACA. I predict that if Mr. Romney is elected president, repealing ACA will be his first official flip-flop since he will find out it will not be easy to unravel such a large piece of legislation whose many individual parts are more popular than the whole. In a word, he will find out, as President Obama did, the power of the filibuster rule (in the case the Democrats should lose the Senate) or the power of the Senate (should the Democrats remain in the majority).
But the problems for Ryan don't end there. There is a real difference in philosophy between the two major parties and in particular between the Obama/Biden and the Romney/Ryan teams. The President is all about spreading the risk among all Americans. Unlike the caricature of his “spreading the wealth,” he genuinely believes that 1) all Americans should have medical insurance regardless of income level and 2) a single risk pool should be the strength of the American people as a whole. One can disagree with this philosophy, but that is what the man believes in.
The private insurance businesses, however, believe in creating risk pool groups. This is how they manage their business. Lower risk groups, therefore, pay the lowest premiums and the higher risk groups pay increasingly higher premiums because their risk is higher. It makes perfect sense as a business model which is why the business minded Romney and Ryan support this type of approach. This is what they call the free market.
The problem with this free market approach to human services is that, although great for business, it is not so great for people who end up sick and old. The free market is a wonderful mechanism to deliver most goods and services. No one has come up with a better economic system that is more innovative, nimble, and efficient. But healthcare is in a different class. One might even say it is in a unique class because as we all get old we all use healthcare disproportionately. Young, healthy people rarely need medical intervention unless they get involved in a catastrophic accident or contract an unpredictable disease. Consequently, as a group they are in a rather low risk pool.
So here's where the differences in philosophies clash. By insisting that everybody is in the same boat, the President is telling younger people that they should pay more now in insurance in order to have a guarantee that they won't pay significantly more when they get old. That is the bargain that Obama would like to see for America. The Republican alternative (when you get deep in the weeds with Ryan's reforms) is to rely on the private sector for seniors. This means, of course, they will get caught up in increasingly higher and more expensive risk pools. To his credit, Ryan left the public option open for seniors -- after howls of protest from Democrats and senior groups like AARP -- but all that will accomplish is to push the really sick into the government plan, making it even more expensive than it is now. Ironically, it is Obama's cost saving ACA that can palliate the effect somewhat. No matter what, though, the highest risk people will cost the most, because the population as whole was treated unequally to start with.


Mr. Ryan's Medicare reforms, where he wants 
to weed seniors away from the admittedly 
government-run current system to a 
private insurance based system 
much like the rest of us have, has 
the peculiarity of being reliant on the success of the 
President's Affordable Care Act.

People who see the market as some sort of religion that has to be correct for everything will embrace the Republican philosophy until it will be too late if they find themselves out of luck. We have been living in a mixed economy for some time now. We have maintained a market economy that works well (with a few exceptions) but have also embraced government intervention in certain areas of common good. Most Republicans have accepted that the free market in its purest form cannot meet all of people's needs. Services like fire, police, public works, primary and secondary education, have been in public hands for a long time and although not without problems, are considered by most best done through a public service, not private enterprise. Nobody in his right mind would suggest we turn the fire departments into a private insurance scheme where premiums are optional and varied. And if you chose not to participate, well, your house will just burn down as the fire department would limit itself to protecting those who paid their insurance premiums.
Healthcare is not very different from protection against fire. We all need it. It is not an “option” unless you are so heartless as to think people should be allowed to die at the scene of an accident or from a curable disease. Fortunately, very few people think that.
There is much to reform in healthcare. The costs are too high. There are many inefficiencies in the system. There is too much corruption. The list is quite long. All ideas that contribute towards solving these problems should be welcomed, and it should not matter who comes up with them. But America has a choice to make. Should the private insurance companies be allowed to make up the rules that satisfy their bottom line? Or should the public sector create rules that are in everyone's interest that take into account that as we grow older our needs are greater and costs are higher? Are we all in this together? Or should each group be forced into fending for itself?



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          Malicious Kook Power   

Definition of KOOK
: one whose ideas or actions are eccentric, fantastic, or insane :
Definition of MALICE
1: desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another
2: intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse
Merriam-Webster
Who would have thought that the likes of Michele Bachmann, Glen Beck, and Rush Limbaugh would have so much influence in the Middle East? These three and others like them continue to be national embarrassments and have little influence in their own country outside of their rabid group of fans, but in faraway Egypt, of all places, their antics have provoked otherwise levelheaded people to believe the preposterous lie that America had a secret agenda to support the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian elections.
And where did they unearth such an obvious lie?
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
It all started with Congresswoman (and ex-candidate for President) Michele Bachmann's allegation that the US Congress has been penetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Not content with this simple baseless allegation, Bachmann goes all in with this whopper: “It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood,” Bachmann told radio host Sandy Rios in June. “It appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency." Words worthy of Senator Joe McCarthy himself.
Nobody in his right mind pays much attention to these obvious cries for attention as the media, generally speaking, does little to report on this nonsense, but these malicious kooky ideas do find their way into the blogosphere, particularly through the right-wing “ditto-heads” who are all too happy to promote the most preposterous lies about our President and his administration.

The spectacle of our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton 
being pelted by tomatoes and jeered in Egypt is 
not just a humiliation she does not deserve.

Not to be outdone, Glen Beck has been advancing some pretty paranoid scenarios of his own. The enclosed video clip tells the story in chilling detail, it tells a tale that should frighten us all. Beck manages to assemble a a group of “experts” who sound very rational, discussing the demise of the United States at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, even implicating the President of the United States in a ridiculous plot working with elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to obliterate our country as we know it. Gone is the bombast Beck exhibited at Fox News, the bombast he thrilled Rupert Murdoch with because it ginned up ratings, fattening both of their wallets in the process. (When Beck's over the top shtick stopped bringing in the big bucks, ol' Rupert, always the sentimental one, dropped Glen like a hot potato.) But here, the soft spoken Beck with his ever so calm guests weave a tale that is worthy of the Syfy channel except that gullible listeners in Egypt were apparently tuned in.

Finally, of course, there is the always reliable über-malicious kook himself, Rush Limbaugh who completes the puzzle with this gem:
Huma Abedin, Mrs. Anthony Weiner, Mrs. Huma Weiner, she is Hillary Clinton’s number one aide. And Huma’s mother is best friends with the new First Lady of Egypt, the wife of the new Muslim Brotherhood guy, Morsi. That’s really all you need to know. But there’s much more to know. That’s why Hillary is out celebrating the brotherhood. That’s why Hillary is joining Obama in telling the military to give it up for the Brotherhood guy. Because Huma’s mom, there’s actually a group, the Muslim Sisterhood, essentially, that is an offshoot of the Brotherhood. And Huma’s mom is best friends with the new so-called First Lady of Egypt, who is also a member of the Sisterhood. Folks, it’s Peyton place. It’s too much to keep up with.
As Limbaugh boldly states, there's more, much more (including the the omitted fact that Weiner is a Jew), but this modest article is not about detailing all the sordid particulars of the paranoid delusions of America's malicious kooks. That is more print than any of them deserve. Those of you who are fascinated with the ranting of the professional paranoids, feel free to investigate on your own. There’s plenty more.
However, there is a larger point to be made. The antics of those many of us regard as kooks, or entertainment as some will, are taken seriously abroad by too many people. The spectacle of our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton being pelted by tomatoes and jeered in Egypt is not just a humiliation she does not deserve. It is a humiliation of our President (who incidentally, in spite of vicious rumors to the contrary, does not deserve this either). Most importantly, it is a humiliation directed at the United States of America -- that is -- us American citizens. All due to the antics of our fellow kooky citizens who amuse themselves by slandering our country for fun and profit.
And where is the “never apologize for America” Mitt Romney in all this? Why is Mr. Romney not rising to defend his country? Or at least being so bold as to denounce the malicious kooks in his own party? It is not enough to dismiss the eminently dismissible Sarah Palin who is a bastion of reason compared with these three. Romney wants us to believe he will be a bold leader defending America abroad when he cannot even muster the courage to defend America from her enemies within.
At great risk of sounding anti-free enterprise, at what point does this type of behavior become seditious? Just asking.

PS Since this article was published Senator John McCain made an passionate defense of Huma Abedin on the Senate floor. Here is the link. If only Romney had half the courage of John McCain he might get half his votes.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Great Gas Gambit   

All those people who predicted gas prices would be over five dollars a gallon this summer must all apologize to the American people.
Now.
Senator Mitch McConnell
That includes most of the leaders of the Republican Party who were all so happy that gas prices were climbing a few months ago so they could blame the President for one more thing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell went so far as saying, “This President will go to any length to drive up gas prices and pave the way for his ideological agenda.” Really, Mitch? And what agenda would that be? Ensuring his defeat in November? Making his fellow citizens as miserable as possible? Ensuring that ordinary Americans would have less money to pay for food? I wonder which ideological agenda Mitch is talking about because, of course, the good senator from Kentucky did not elaborate or fully explain the details.

It seemed, for a while, that Republicans and their boosters at Fox News and other assorted right-wing outlets couldn't stop talking about how gas prices were going to skyrocket during the summer based on their vast knowledge of economics.
We can excuse the usual fellow travelers like Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity, for their underprivileged education and little understanding of how the real world works. After all, they are entertainers, so we shouldn't expect people who are colleagues of Ozzie Osborne to have any special knowledge of the dynamics of commodities fluctuations. Nobody in his right mind would go to the Beiber for economics advice. Let the Beiber be Beiber, and the rest of us should try and get our information from people who know a little bit more about international markets.
But wait a minute! Isn't Mitt Romney an expert about markets? Or so he says. Just ask him on the campaign trail and he will tell you that he is not really a politician he is a business man. A very savvy business man with oodles and oodles of experience with capital formation, markets, and all those complicated things about which the Minority Leader is so ignorant about. At least, the clueless McConnell is not running for President, and he is barely mentioned as a choice for Vice President so we have to give ole' Mitch a pass. After all, he just has to convince the good people of Kentucky he knows what he is talking about, voters who might be brighter than he thinks.
Mitt Romney
And exactly what is Romney's excuse? I recall he too joined the Republican bandwagon and was quite critical of the President's policies which he squarely blamed for the rising gas prices. With Romney’s vast knowledge of the economy he would fix all that he alleged. He didn't quite go as far as the quasi-genius Gingrich who had a secret plan to bring gas prices down to two dollars or so. But the businessman Romney was quick to point out the President was responsible for the rise in gas prices and that under his (Romney's) capable administration such calamities were just not going to happen because of his great command of economics, the markets, capital formation, and so on and so on.
So Mitt, where is your apology?
You see, I don't believe Romney, McConnell and these other gentlemen should apologize for being wrong. I mean, we all make mistakes. My biggest mistake was believing that Ronald Reagan would not win a second term. Boy was I wrong. If it weren't for his fellow Republicans hating FDR so much and passing a law prohibiting presidents from having more than two terms, Reagan might have won a third term – that's how wrong I was. And I never apologized either because I never claimed to be an expert prognosticator. It was just an opinion. But Romney claims special knowledge of economics and especially knowledge of how markets work. Heck, his whole campaign is predicated on the principle that his special knowledge as a businessman would enable him to turn around our economy. It’s, if you pardon my French, his raison d’ être.
So yes, Mitt, when you get something as elementary as gas prices wrong, you have to apologize to the American people. Not for being wrong, but for pretending you know things that you really don't know much about. For perpetuating a hoax on the American people. For lying about your capacity to understand how markets work when in reality you are no better than Justin Beiber at economics. And maybe just a little bit better than Ozzie Osbourne. Just maybe.



Link to C-SPAN for debate archives and more.


          The Lessons of the Walker Recall   

“Money talks; Bullshit walks.”
- American proverb
Americans have some quaint and colorful sayings, some of them very earthy. In the case of the singular recall election in Wisconsin yesterday, this is one case where American popular wisdom seems to have prevailed.
Because of the complexity of the funding for this recall election the numbers vary depending on how you count. There was money spent on media advertising, organization, consultants, and so much more. Most fair pundits put the estimated funding discrepancy between Governor Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett ranging from 7-1 in favor of Walker to 10-1. The latest figures I have seen show approximately $40 million spent on Walker's campaign and $4 million spent on Barrett's campaign.
Governor Scott Walker 
Whatever the actual final numbers will be, one thing is fairly clear. The Supreme Court ruling on the Citizen's United case has unleashed unlimited funds from the corporate sector and independent billionaires intent on influencing elections. The most disturbing aspect of this new legal experiment is that much of this money is donated anonymously.
One of the lessons learned from this unusual election is that it is hard to know with any precision what role big money played in Wisconsin's election. Still, it is not unreasonable to assume that money played some role. There are many factors that went into the Walker victory, the main non-partisan point being that many voters did not think recall elections should be used for anything other than for criminal wrongdoing. Although there is vast discontent with Walker's policies in Wisconsin, Americans by and large are strong believers in fairness and don't usually support unusual remedies to remove politicians from office. The classic case, of course, is Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky scandal which left Americans with a bad taste throughout the country, but resulted in the impeachment attempt by a partisan Republican Party being rejected by a country tired of the overreaching by the opposition.
Mayor Tom Barrett
It could be said that the opposition to Governor Walker overreached, that the recall remedy was more than the public wanted. Perhaps the public would have settled for a reprimand, but our system does not really allow for that so a recall election is one of the few ways the public can register their disapproval.
However, it is dangerous to read too much into this election. Yes, it is true that the unions in Wisconsin were not successful in removing their Governor from office in a special election. That is the bottom line and one cannot underplay that. But beyond that, it is not very clear what are the main consequences of this election. Not as reported, however, is the real possibility that the Wisconsin Senate is likely to go back into the the hands of Democrats, giving Walker a setback he did not get from his personal recall election. The recall will likely turn the Senate from a Republican majority to a Democratic majority, a major defeat for Walker's agenda.
Anti-Walker protests at the Wisconsin Statehouse
It will be interesting to see if Walker will continue his onslaught on Wisconsin's middle class. Although prognostications are always dangerous, it seems that Walker might become a bit more humble in his approach to governing and the legislature in Wisconsin will be more balanced as a result of all the recall efforts. After all, most Americans wish for a more balanced approach to government and generally reject all the hyper-partisanship that have become the norm in Washington D.C. these days.
Governor Walker would be well served if he does not allow his victory go to his head and believe that he now has carte blanche to pursue a right-wing agenda. That would be a big misreading of the electoral results. Governor Walker has been given a second chance but a most telling number is that a full 60% of the voters in Wisconsin believe that their Governors should only be recalled or impeached for serious misconduct and policy differences do not really qualify.
One thing seems clear, however, that there is too much unaccountable money in politics as a result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Mitt Romney took advantage of this new law to overwhelm his competition for the Republican nomination. He obliterated competitors like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich with massive TV advertising subsidized by unlimited spending by mostly anonymous billionaires. This is an issue that will not go away soon.
America has to decide whether a few billionaires should have special rights due to their financial position. Is money really the same as speech? Are Corporations really people? Aside from being the name of this blog, this is a question that will haunt America for the foreseeable future.

          Bloggers on the Bali   

What should we call NGO blogs? Given how they are increasingly appearing in a new space beyond the traditional media, I wonder whether we need a new term for activist-reporter-bloggers. How about blongos? Or blongeurs?

Whatever we call them, one thing is for sure - blogging is providing an effective means of communicating the hopes and frustrations of frontline lobbyists back to memberships and activists. It's still a minority pursuit at present - look through the long list of accredited NGOs and you'll find just a handful trying to connect beyond the boundaries of the conference compound. But that will surely change over the next 2 years of climate activism.

Some of these blogs come from prominent environmental leaders. Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club arrived in Bali at the weekend. He immediately posted on the USA's current and potential post-Bush positions in follow up to his earlier call for action on the Senate's vote on the Energy Reform Bill.

Also from the USA, and from the heart of the traditional policy NGOs, is the Switchboard blog of the NRDC. They've a whole host of posts related to Bali from their policy experts to their President.

Zipping across the Atlantic to the UK, the major environment and development NGOs have clubbed together to provide an aggregated webfeed of all their posts, often with embedded video content.

Oxfam international have drawn attention to the huge disparities between nations in their ‘graph of climate injustice', while World Development movement have made the connections between the climate marches around the globe.

Both of these NGOs have dedicated Bali blog sites, while Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have opted to include their Bali posts amongst the reports of their other worldwide climate actions.

Powerfully making their voice heard through web innovation are the youth movement delegations in Bali. They've pulled together posts on their dedicated Bali Buzz site, been active posters over at Grist magazine, and the team from SustainUS have a video channel on YouTube. Experts in body language will enjoy analysing their meeting with the US delegation.

But what's beyond the anglosphere? Our friends over at Global Voices Online have been collating and reblogging content from around the world (yes, including us here at Global Deal), but even they find that posts are very dominated by the English language.

If you know of a great NGO blog then let us know - email us or scribble away in the comments below.

Even better, if you're from an NGO and don't yet blog, you've got a huge audience out there over the next 2 years - dive in and grab a slice of the action.


          Top Stories: Poll Shows Disapproval Of Trump, GOP Health Plan; Venezuela Attack   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Just 17 Percent Of Americans Approve Of Republican Senate Health Care Bill. -- Trump Fails To Reach Beyond Base, As Independents' Disapproval Grows. -- Venezuelan Police Helicopter Fires On Supreme Court, Interior Ministry. -- Sarah Palin Sues 'New York Times', Says Editorial Defamed Her. And here are more early headlines: Enormous Wildfire Still Out Of Control In Utah. ( KUER ) Safety Questions After N.Y. Subway Car Derails, Injuring Several. ( New York Times ) Cyber Attacks Around The World; Ransom Demanded. ( Washington Post ) Islamist Militants Force Southern Filipino Women Into Sex Slavery. ( Telegraph ) Border Wall Prototype Construction Underway In Calif. ( San Diego Union-Tribune ) Germany Clears Building; Siding Similar To That In Deadly London Fire. ( Sydney Morning Herald ) VIDEO: Man Rescued From River By California Highway Patrol. ( Los Angeles Times ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Peace Prize Winner Liu Released; UK's May Forms Government   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Britain's May Forms Minority Government With Backing Of Northern Irish Party. -- China Releases Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo From Prison After Cancer Diagnosis. -- Trump Hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi At The White House. -- Party Boat Filled With Tourists Capsizes Near Medellin, Colombia. And here are more early stories: How The Senate Health Bill Affects Different States. ( New York Times ) Federal Judge To Hear Case Of Iraqis Set To Be Deported. ( WXYZ ) Pakistani Hospitals Struggle To Treat Dozens Of Burn Victims From Fire. ( Reuters ) Chinese Officials Fear New Landslide At Site Of First Deadly Slide. ( CNN ) Average U.S. Price For a Gallon Of Regular Gas Drops 7 Cents. ( AP ) California Snow Melt Swelling Rivers, Breaching Levees. ( Fresno Bee ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Fast Facts: Medicaid Cuts in Senate Health Bill Would Harm New Jersey Even More Than Cuts in House Bill   
NJPP’s analysis finds that not only is the U.S. Senate’s version of the Republican efforts to dismantle the ACA a disaster in terms of the sheer number of uninsured it would leave here, but the impact of cuts to Medicaid...
Read more
          Top Stories: Tropical Storm Cindy; ISIS Destroys Historic Mosul Mosque   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Heavy Rains And Flooding As Tropical Storm Cindy Makes Landfall. -- ISIS Destroys Historic Mosque In Mosul As Iraqi Forces Close In. -- After Georgia Win, A Triumphant Trump Returns To Campaign Trail In Iowa. -- Virginia Community Mourns Muslim Teen Killed On Her Way To Mosque. And here are more early headlines: GOP To Release Proposed Senate Health Care Bill Today. ( ABC ) Man Who Fired Into D.C. Pizzeria On Conspiracy Theory To Be Sentenced. ( WTOP ) Report: U.S. Forces Reportedly Question Detainees In Yemeni Prisons Where Torture Is Alleged. ( AP ) House GOP Proposes Bill To Privatize U.S. Air Traffic Control. ( USA Today ) U.N. Says World Population Near 10 Billion By 2050. ( U.N. News Centre ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Latest On Senate Health Care Bill; Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Saudi King Deposes Crown Prince And Names A New Heir, Age 31. -- Here's What We Know About The Senate GOP Health Care Bill. -- Uber Founder Resigns Under Pressure As CEO, Published Report Says. -- Mattel Introduces New Diverse Ken Dolls; Hopes To Reverse Sales Slump. -- Carla Fendi, Former President Of Luxury Fashion Brand, Dies. And here are more early headlines: Tropical Storm Cindy Advances On Louisiana Coast. ( NHC ) Extreme Heat Felt In Various Parts Of The Northern Hemisphere. ( Reuters ) Former DHS Secretary To Testify On Russian Meddling Today. ( PBS ) Trump Son-In-Law, Kushner, Visits Israel On Mideast Peace Effort. ( Time ) Latest On Foiled Brussels Train Station Attack. ( AFP ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Company Won't Take Americans To North Korea; Senate On Health Care   
Good morning, here are our early headlines: -- Tour Company Used By Otto Warmbier Will Stop Taking Americans To North Korea. -- Sen. Bernie Sanders On GOP Efforts To Replace Obamacare. -- Attention Holiday Shoppers: UPS To Add Delivery Surcharges. And here are more early headlines: Georgia Special Election Opens For House Seat. ( USA Today ) Ukrainian Leader To "Drop In" On Trump. ( Guardian ) Philippines Renews Attack Against Militants In Southern City. ( Reuters ) Air Bag Maker Reportedly Seeking Bankruptcy. ( Bloomberg ) Tropical Storm Warnings Issued For Louisiana Coast. ( NHC ) Death Toll In Portugal Forest Fires Is Now 64. ( BBC ) Some Armed Groups In Central African Republic Sign Agreement. ( AP ) Collection Of Nazi Artifacts Discovered In Argentina. ( Deutsche Welle ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Attack At London Mosque; London Fire Death Toll Rises   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- At Least 1 Dead After Vehicle Hits Pedestrians Near North London Mosque. -- 79 People Are Believed Dead In London's Grenfell Tower Apartment Fire. And here are more early headlines: Supreme Court To Hear Congressional Redistricting Case. ( Washington Post ) Senate Democrats To Protest GOP Action On Health Care. ( Politico ) Officials Say It Took An Hour To Report U.S. Destroyer Collision. ( Reuters ) Brexit Talks Open In Brussels. ( Guardian ) Potential Tropical Storms Forming In Atlantic Ocean, Gulf Of Mexico. ( NHC ) Closing Arguments Today In Murder Retrial Of Ex-University Of Cincinnati Officer. ( WLWT ) Turkey Sends Troops To Qatar For Military Exercise. ( Al Jazeera ) N.Y. Public Theater's "Julius Caesar" Interrupted Again. ( New York Post ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Trump's Cuba Policy; Escaped Georgia Inmates Recaptured   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Republicans And Democrats Come Together To Play Ball. -- How Cubans Are Reacting To Trump's Harsher Policies. -- Escaped Ga. Inmates Who Killed 2 Guards Captured In Tennessee, Police Say. And here are more early headlines: Senate Health Care Reform Work Still Secret. ( Houston Chronicle ) Report: U.S. To Send 4,000 Troops To Afghanistan. ( AP ) Russia Claims It May Have Killed ISIS Leader. ( New York Times ) London Tower Fire: Some Victims May Not Ever Be Identified. ( BBC ) Judge Orders Deadlocked Cosby Jury To Continue Deliberating. ( Philly.com ) Bomb Kills 8 At Chinese Kindergarten. ( The West Australian ) Fighting Continues Between Army, Militants In Southern Philippines. ( Reuters ) Security Flaw Detected In Georgia Election System. ( WABE ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Comey To Testify; Trump Discusses Infrastructure   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Ex-FBI Boss Comey Heads To The Senate: Can It Live Up To The Hype? -- Trump Talks Up Infrastructure Plan In Cincinnati. -- U.K. Election Arrives After May Sees Lead Over Corbyn Shrink. -- Victory In Cleveland Puts Warriors 1 Win From 16-0 Streak To NBA Title. And here are more early headlines: North Korea Fires 4 Missiles In Apparent New Test. ( CNN ) Iran Blames Saudi Arabia In Tehran Terror Attacks. ( Reuters ) House To Debate Limiting Dodd-Frank Financial Law. ( USA Today ) British Police Arrest 3 On Terror Suspicions. ( Financial Times ) Deadly Fires Kill 8 As They Move On Cape Town, South Africa. ( AP ) Underwood, Urban Winners At CMT Country Awards. ( CMT.com ) NHL's Pittsburgh Hosts Nashville In Stanley Cup Final Game 5. ( NHL.com ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: Tehran Attacks; Trump Nominates Wray For FBI Director   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- Christopher Wray Is Trump's Nominee To Be The New FBI Director. -- Twin Attacks Hit Iran's Parliament And Khomeini Mausoleum; ISIS Claims Responsibility. -- Amazon Lowers Prime Membership Rate For Low-Income Customers. And here are more early headlines: Trump To Talk Infrastructure In Cincinnati Today. ( Cincinnati Enquirer ) Key Officials Testify Before Senate Intelligence Committee Today. ( CNN ) Mont. Rep.-Elect Gianforte Seeks Extension In Assault Case Hearing. ( Bozeman Daily Chronicle ) Brazilian Judges To Rule On Case That Could Topple President. ( BBC ) Mexican Prison Riot Leaves 4 Dead, 6 Wounded. ( Reuters ) Australia Records 26 Years Of Continuous Economic Growth. ( Guardian ) Cincinnati Reds' Gennett Hits 4 Home Runs To Beat St. Louis. ( SI.com ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          Top Stories: May Jobless Report; Trump Seeks Reinstatement Of Travel Ban   
Good morning, here are our early stories: -- May Jobs Report: 138,000 More On Payrolls; Unemployment Dips Slightly. -- Trump Asks Supreme Court To Reinstate Travel Ban On 6 Majority-Muslim Nations. -- Golden State Buries Cleveland In Game 1 Of NBA Finals, 113-91. And here are more early headlines: Ex-FBI Director Comey Will Testify Next Week At Senate Panel. ( Politico ) At Least 2 Dead In Wisconsin Plant Blast. ( Wisconsin State Journal ) Ex-Penn State Officials To Be Sentenced In Sandusky Molestation Cases. ( Philly.com ) Kansas Bans Concealed Guns In Public Hospitals. ( Kansas City Star ) Venezuelan Judge Killed While At Protest Barricade. ( Reuters ) Tropical Storm Beatriz Weakens To Depression In Pacific. ( NHC ) Huge Chunk Of Antarctic Ice Shelf Poised To Break Off. ( Newsweek ) Japan's Lower House Of Parliament Passes Emperor Abdication Bill. ( AFP ) Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
          A number certain to strike fear in the hearts of Senate Republicans   
Here's an indisputable fact: The health care legislation Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on Tuesday is very, very unpopular with the public.

          Staff Senate Welcomes New Senators And Alternates   
  The Staff Senate conducted it’s June orientation meeting on June 12th.   Please Welcome Our Newly Elected Senators And Alternates:  Academic Affairs (A)  Betsy Brown (A)  Travis Bulluck  Admin and Finance (S)  Patrick  Clark (S)  Michael Hale (S)  Robert Ables (S)  Letty Lalu (S)  Brock Jones (S)  Dawn King (A) Catherine Stephenson  Athletics  None Chancellor’s Division (A) Kimrey Miko
          Time to Vote for New Staff Senators   
Every spring the Staff Senate elects new senators and alternate senators. This year over 20 seats will be filled across eight divisions. All candidates were nominated by their peers and approved by their supervisor and Human Resources. Each division is allotted senate seats based on the number of staff. One senator is elected for every 100 staff members. Each division
          Staff Appreciation Week April 7-11th, 2014   
Mark your calendars, the 2014 ECU Staff Appreciation Week will be April 7th – 11th.  The Staff Senate Rewards and Recognition Committee along with our Staff Senate Chair and Chair-Elect have been working very hard to ensure this year’s celebration is a GREAT one! There are many local businesses in and around Greenville that appreciate the staff at ECU as well,
          Senate health care bill would affect 4 million Californians, cost state $30 billion a year   
The U.S. Capitol as seen from the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

File: The U.S. Capitol as seen from the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.; Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

KPCC Staff

The health care bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate could lead to serious reductions in Medi-Cal coverage, including reducing or ending coverage for more than 3.8 million people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, according to a new analysis by California's Department of Health Care Services and Department of Finance.

The bill could add more than $30 billion per year in additional health care costs to the state budget over the next 10 years, shifting responsibility and costs for health care from the federal government to California. It would add nearly $3 billion in costs by 2020, growing to $30.3 billion per year by 2027, according to the analysis.

"This bill takes a sledgehammer to the improvements we have made in our state’s health care delivery system," DHCS Director Jennifer Kent said in a statement.

The total costs from 2020 through 2027 for California: $114.6 billion, including $92.4 billion of the state's General Fund, according to the analysis.

The analysis is similar to that of the House version of the health care bill, according to the DHCS, costing less up front by an additional $12 billion per year by 2027.

Check back for updates to this story.

This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at SCPR.org.


          Burr: Senate panel to get Comey memos - POLITICO   
Politico reports;
          GOP Senator: Dems Have 'Drawn Line in the...   
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) joins MTP Daily to discuss working with Democrats on the Senate health care bill.
          Senate health bill focuses more on tax breaks   
Velshi & Ruhle on why the Senate health bill focuses so much on tax breaks
          "Gas Industry Says 'Trust Us' On Tracking Cyberthreats"   

"At the end of a Senate hearing last month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) challenged Dave McCurdy, president of the American Gas Association, to say how Congress and the public can be confident about the cybersecurity defenses of the nation's natural gas infrastructure when no one is keeping score."

Source: ,

          FirstNet Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report to Congress   

By Ed Parkinson, FirstNet Director of Government Affairs
FirstNet recently delivered its Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) (Annual Report) to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Annual Report provides a comprehensive summary of FirstNet’s operations, activities, financial developments, and accomplishments during the period between October 1, 2013 and September 30, 2014.


          Lawmakers Warn Senate Health Care Bill Could Worsen Opioid Crisis   
Some senators are concerned about how the Senate Republicans health care bill would affect treatment for opioid addiction.
          55 Percent Of Americans Disapprove Of Senate Health Care Bill   
A new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll shows President Trump's approval ratings below 40 percent and approval of the GOP health care proposal in the teens. This toxic environment makes it even tougher for Republicans to forge a deal to meet their twin goals of repealing the Affordable Care Act and making affordable care more accessible.
          Boston Surgeon Argues Senate GOP Bill Threatens Nation's Health   
NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a staff writer for The New Yorker, about what the health care industry learned from the Affordable Care Act.
          Massachusetts: Please call your State Representative today!   
MPP State Policy Alert Massachusetts: We really need you to call your State Representative today! Dear [[First_Name]], After a dramatic week in the House and Senate, a six-member conference committee is now determining which version of the marijuana law rewrite will reach Gov. Baker's d
          House, Senate introduce competing FAA bills   
Transportation committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate introduced two competing bills a day apart to reauthorize the FAA. The House bill includes a plan to spin off ATC to a non-profit corporation controlled by the aviation industry, while the Senate bill does not. Not surprising, GA’s alphabet groups have come out in […]
          Indivisible San Diego Persists with Die In and Candlelight Vigil   
Story + Photo Gallery The Senate may have put Trumpcare on hold for a few days, but San Diegans are continuing with a campaign expressing opposition to the proposed ‘repeal and replace’ legislation. About 150 people gathered at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest on Tuesday evening for a ‘die-in,’ followed by an hour of rapid-fire and often emotional speeches and ending with a candlelight vigil on the grounds of the nearby UCSD Medical Center.   [Read more...]

Author information

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35-year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He's won numerous awards for his columns from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park.


          NJ Senate Panel to Weigh Expansion of Transparency Laws   
A pair of bills to update OPRA and the Open Public Meetings Act have new life this year.
          Democrats Plot to Oust Prieto Unless He Caves on Horizon   
In a shocking development, New Jersey Democrats could oust the Assembly speaker unless he caves to Gov. Chris Christie and Senate Democrats.
          CISPA-like Cyber Security Bill Coming to a Vote in U.S. Senate Soon   

Just when you thought the US congress was done trying to legislate our Internet with bills like SOPA and PIPA, they’re at it again. This time it’s Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Will they not stop this madness until they have complete government control over the Internet?
          New plan for LRSD   
Massive poor to rich transfer, Griffen ruling and more.

Stat of the week

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that, in the House Republican bill to replace Obamacare, which is largely mirrored in the newly unveiled Senate GOP's Better Care Reconciliation Act, the 400 top income households in the U.S. would receive $33 billion in tax cuts between 2019 and 2028. That sum is equal to the bill's proposed savings by ending Medicaid expansion in four states — Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia and Nevada.

Next: lawsuit

A 6-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument was installed outside the state Capitol on Tuesday. Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), the evangelist who sponsored legislation to enable it, was on hand to preen before the cameras. He insisted the monument — paid for with private contributions — will withstand the legal challenge promised by the ACLU and others to state promotion of religion on the Capitol grounds. He rests his case on Texas' similar monument — a relic from a movie decades ago that had become so enshrined and essentially invisible that the courts allowed it to stand when a challenge was raised many years later. More recently, courts ordered removal of a monument in Oklahoma.

New plan to pay for LRSD facilities

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key has approved a plan by Little Rock School District Superintendent Michael Poore to raise $90 million through second-lien bonds to build the proposed new high school in Southwest Little Rock and pay for other facility improvements, including roof and heat/air repairs. Since the LRSD was taken over two years ago by the state for low test scores at a handful of its 48 schools, Key has served as the school board. Second-lien bonds do not require voter approval; they are repaid with surplus debt millage. That's currently some $27 million in excess of the amount necessary for current bond payments, but it would come at the expense of operational funds, which likely means budget cuts somewhere else.

On May 9, LRSD voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to extend 12.4 mills in debt for 14 years to allow a $200 million bond sale to pay for various district improvements and build a high school.

Griffen rules new juvenile sentencing law unconstitutional

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled last week that a 2017 law addressing sentencing of juvenile killers was unconstitutional.

He said the law unconstitutionally took sentencing out of the hands of a jury by setting a mandatory life sentence for capital murder, first-degree murder and treason, with a possibility of parole after 25 years for first-degree murder and 30 years for capital murder.

The law was an effort to amend Arkansas law to comport with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held life without parole sentences unconstitutional for juvenile offenders 17 and younger.

Since that Supreme Court decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court has begun hearing cases from people sentenced to life as juveniles. It has held that they should receive sentencing hearings and be given a chance to present evidence about age, the nature of the crime and other issues and given a sentence within the range for Class Y felonies.

The legislature failed in its effort to create "age appropriate sentencing standards," Griffen ruled. The right to a jury trial includes jury sentencing, he said. "The issue of sentencing is not determined by the General Assembly. The General Assembly only determines the range of punishment for given sentences."

The mandatory sentence in the 2017 law deprives defendants of the ability to present mitigating evidence on sentencing, Griffen said. The so-called Fair Sentencing of Minors Act doesn't pass constitutional muster because "it denies individualized sentencing," according to Griffen.

Griffen also said the law encroached on separation of powers. The state argued that the law provides parole hearings at which defendants can offer mitigating evidence. But Griffen said parole hearings are not sentencing hearings. They are a condition of release subsequent to sentencing, he said. He said the legislature overstepped its authority because parole is an executive branch function.

Bathroom bill revived

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted last week to have interim hearings on a bathroom bill by Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas). The bill is an effort to prohibit transgender people from using facilities that match their identity.

It's mean stuff, and the intervention of Governor Hutchinson and his nephew, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock), kept it off the statute books in 2017. But the enemies of transgender people haven't quit fighting, with a recent victory in Texas to their credit. They are red hot to continue pursuit of a nonexistent problem in Arkansas and will at least have some hearings before the next regular legislative session. (In theory, only budget matters may be discussed at the 2018 assembly.) If we're lucky, a Republican challenger will defeat Collins-Smith in the 2018 primary.

Corrections: In Gene Lyons' June 22 column, "Megyn vs. Alex," he mistakenly wrote that the Sandy Hook massacre happened in 2015. It was in 2012.

The June 22 Arkansas Reporter, "Two suits challenge new abortion laws," mistakenly referred to a 48-day waiting period for those seeking an abortion, rather than a 48-hour period.


          Beyond repeal of Obamacare   
The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.

On June 22, Republicans in the U.S. Senate introduced a long-awaited bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law often referred to as Obamacare. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would rework the ACA's subsidies for individual insurance policies, cut taxes for higher-income households, end the mandate that individuals have insurance, and allow states to opt out of ACA requirements that insurance policies include benefits such as mental health and maternity coverage. It would also put an end to the enhanced funding rate that made it possible to expand Medicaid to cover some 14.4 million low-income adults nationwide.

But the Senate bill, like similar legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, would also institute major cuts to the traditional Medicaid program, potentially affecting coverage for millions of children, elderly people and disabled adults nationwide. In Arkansas, 30 percent of the state's population — about 912,000 people — were enrolled in some form of Medicaid in March 2017, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That figure includes enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which together with Medicaid pays for ARKids A and B.

Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the Senate bill "goes well beyond the political promise of repealing Obamacare. It restructures Medicaid funding. And so, it really is a U-turn on the promise that the federal government has always made to states — that Medicaid would be funded through a state-federal partnership." (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has contributed funding to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

The Senate bill would reshape Medicaid in two ways. First, beginning in 2021, it would phase out the Medicaid expansion created by the ACA, which provides coverage to low-income adults. Approximately 300,000 Arkansans are now enrolled in Arkansas Works, the program funded by the Medicaid expansion. Second, the Senate bill would cap federal spending on the rest of Medicaid, which existed long before the ACA's expansion and which is composed of programs such as ARKids. Rather than Medicaid paying for patients' medical care on an open-ended basis, as is now the case, the federal government would disburse funds to states in lump sums, either on a per capita basis or through block grants. The Congressional Budget Office projects 22 million people would lose coverage if the Senate bill become law.

Parents like Julie Kauffman of Mountain Home are anxiously watching developments in Washington and wondering how the proposed cuts would translate to Arkansas. Kauffman's daughter, Olive, suffers from cerebral palsy that resulted from viral encephalitis that developed 12 days after she was born. After the infant was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital, Kauffman and her husband were told their private Blue Cross policy would pay for less than half of the helicopter ride, leaving them on the hook for $7,000.

"That was kind of our first introduction to, 'Oh, our health insurance doesn't cover what our child needs,' " Kauffman said. The financial office at the hospital told the parents they should get Olive on Medicaid. "I thought, 'We have health insurance, this is ridiculous. We don't need Medicaid.' Two helicopter rides later, and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars later, we desperately need Medicaid."

Now 3 years old, Olive's condition requires periodic visits to specialists at the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, plus regular speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions at a clinic in Mountain Home. She now spends nine hours in therapy per week. "What Blue Cross covers for her and therapy, she maxes out every year in February. That's when Medicaid picks up the rest of her tally," Kauffman said.

It's especially crucial that Olive receive intensive therapy at a young age, Kauffman explained, to maximize her chances of developing the skills necessary to lead a more independent life. "It's now or never. I mean, we have to do it now. She's 30 pounds. She doesn't have head control. She can't sit up and feed herself. She's nonverbal. She's, you know, total care, and unless we get as much bang for our buck now, what does her future look like?" On July 1, a new rule from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which administers Medicaid in Arkansas, will limit the number of billable minutes of speech, occupational and physical therapy a beneficiary may receive each week without special authorization. The cap is 90 minutes for each category — about half what Olive receives right now. DHS said in a September legal notice that the change is estimated to save the Arkansas Medicaid budget $56.2 million annually. Kauffman said she will seek DHS approval to keep paying for the additional therapy hours, but she's concerned about the future.

"What's happening in the state alone, along with what's coming down from the federal level — it's just terrifying."

Kauffman said her biggest concerns about the Senate bill "are the cuts and the block grants. If it comes down to a block grant system where the federal government gives each state a set amount of dollars, how is that going to be disbursed from child to child? I don't know how they would even begin to figure that out. My kid is expensive, and that's not her fault. ... I understand the thought process that Medicaid cannot sustain at the rate that it's going. But there are also a lot of kids in my daughter's situation who didn't ask for this. They need as much help as they can possibly get, and in a perfect world her private insurance would cover what she needs — but it just doesn't."

Olive previously was on ARKids but now has Medicaid coverage through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability. "Because my husband and I are both self-employed and our income fluctuates, she qualifies for SSI at the moment — but that could change at any moment," Kauffman said. She is a subcontractor for a medical billing company; her husband owns a furniture company, where she also works part time. Although their daughter receives substantial government benefits, the couple also ends up devoting much of their household income to her care as well, from specialized equipment to travel costs to St. Louis to therapy that must be paid for out-of-pocket. For the self-employed, time away from home is time spent not working — an additional drain on family resources.

"We're fortunate to have grandparents who chip in when they can and relatives who help out as needed, but, for the most part, we're just doing the best we can do to get by," she said. "We could have $10 million and it still wouldn't be enough."

Approximately 400,000 kids in Arkansas are on Medicaid — about half the children in the state. Only a small percentage have medical needs as pronounced as Olive's. Nonetheless, Marquita Little said, reductions to federal Medicaid spending proposed by the Senate bill would be "devastating to our medical system in Arkansas.

"Our overall impression is that it's still a dangerous bill for kids, for our most vulnerable populations ... [including] seniors, people with disabilities. By capping funding on traditional Medicaid, we would basically be reducing funding that we have in place for those populations. ... So what that means for Arkansas is that we would be forced to make some tough decisions about how we absorb those cuts. You either have to reduce what you actually cover, or you have to reduce payments that we're making to providers."

Having a child who requires such specialized care has changed her perception of Medicaid and those who benefit from the program, Kauffman said. "The biggest thing is that Medicaid helps so many more people than just what everybody assumes... . You know, people who don't want to go out and find a job and take care of themselves. Medicaid is so much more than that. So I think it's just this misconception ... and I was guilty of that. But now I know how needed it is."

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.


          National Nurse Act of 2017 Introduced in Senate   

DURING NATIONAL NURSES WEEK, MERKLEY STANDS UP FOR NURSES WITH BIPARTISAN LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

Bills would update nursing workforce programs and create a National Nurse for Public Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This National Nurses Week, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley [merkley.senate.gov] is standing with nurses in Oregon and across America by introducing bipartisan legislation to support nurses and strengthen the nursing profession.

Merkley on Thursday introduced the National Nurse Act of 2017 and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2017, both with bipartisan support. The National Nurse Act is co-led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and the Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act is co-led by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Merkley, whose wife works in Oregon as a registered nurse, also introduced a bipartisan Senate resolution with Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), officially honoring May 6-12 as National Nurses Week.

“As the husband of a nurse, I hear firsthand about the challenges and successes that come with working on the frontlines of our health care system,” Merkley said. “Every day, nurses take on difficult, essential, and often thankless tasks that keep our health care system running and that have a huge impact on the patient experience. Each of us has a story about the nurse who made all the difference at a frightening or difficult time for our families. I’ll keep fighting to improve federal policy to fully recognize and support the essential role of nurses in our health care system, and I invite all Oregonians to join me in recognizing the tremendous work of our Oregon nurses this National Nurses Week.”

The National Nurse Act of 2017 (S. 1106) The bipartisan National Nurse Act of 2017 would elevate the role of nurses in America’s public health by designating a National Nurse for Public Health.

The National Nurse position would be created by transforming and elevating an existing position within the U.S. Public Health Service, the Chief Nurse Officer. Similarly to the Surgeon General, the National Nurse for Public Health would help raise awareness among the American public about disease prevention and healthy living. The position would provide leadership by a publicly visible nurse who would collaborate with other health care leaders to address health disparities and set goals for improved public health. Nurses represent the largest single component of the health care profession with more than 3.3 million registered nurses. With a National Nurse for Public Health providing a uniting voice and national leadership, American nurses’ power to transform their patients’ lives and to improve public health outcomes would be even greater.

Chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and obesity pose the single greatest threat to the health of Americans and a serious threat to our nation's economy. Nurses provide key services for the prevention and management of these conditions. The National Nurse for Public Health will promote prevention; help improve outcomes; and guide national, state and local efforts in addressing the nation's health.

The National Nurse Act of 2017 is supported by the American Nurses Association, AFT Nurses and Healthcare Professionals, the Case Management Society of America and 105 other national and state nursing organizations and key stakeholders.


          Thank You Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Shelley Moore Capito   

Pictured: NNNO President Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE and NNNO VP Elizabeth McPhee RN with Senator Jeff Merkley (OR-D)

Pictured: Elizabeth Baldwin, PNP, BC Immediate Past WVNA President, Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV-R) and Toni DiChiacchio, DNP- APRN,BC, WVNA President

Thank you to Senator Jeff Merkley (OR-D) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (WV-R) for introducing S. 1106 The National Nurse Act of 2017on May 11, 2017. Supporters of this legislation were particularly thrilled because the timing of introduction fell during National Nurses Week!

We are excited to begin making progress for this bill in the Senate. The NNNO Board and Advocacy Team looks forward to hearing from individuals who wish to request co-sponsorship from both of their U.S. Senators. Email the Board for information.


          Please Support The National Nurse Act of 2017   

Please Support The National Nurse Act of 2017

Written By Kathy Quan BSN, RN, PHN (and posted with permission)

Nurses were once again voted the Most Trusted Professionals in the 2016 Gallup Poll. This marked the 15th year in a row that nurses have topped the list. It’s indeed an honor to call ourselves nurses and to be able to impart our knowledge on our patients to improve their quality of life and health status.

Today we face uncertainties with the new administration who promises to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act as soon as possible. We need to stand strong together in a bipartisan effort to ensure Americans continue to receive the very best health care. This starts with prevention and nurses are in a unique position to lead the way. With chronic conditions on the rise that continue to bankrupt our federal and personal healthcare dollars, educating patients about their life style, health issues, chronic illness conditions and how to PREVENT complications become even more important today.

Nurses Advance Wellness As nurses we have long been charged with the responsibility of patient education. Now more than ever before we need to advocate for our patients, ourselves and the health status of our country. The American Nurses Association too recognizes the important role nurses serve in advancing wellness and at the beginning of 2017 kicked off its “Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation” campaign. The vision is to create a healthier nation by maintaining the well being of America’s 3.6 million nurses.

Dream Becomes Grass Roots Effort In 2005, a nurse educator and patient advocate from Oregon named Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE had a dream and wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times calling for unification of the nursing profession in America with a National Nurse. In early 2015, the National Nurse Act (HR 379) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (a nurse) (D-TX) and Peter King (R-NY). The Senate companion bill (S 1205) was co-led by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). The beauty of this non-controversial legislation is that it required NO additional funding for implementation.

The National Nurse Act of 2015 received strong bi-partisan co-sponsor support from 97 Representatives and 5 Senators in addition to 119 nursing organizations including the American Nurses Association, the National Federation of Nurses, and the Federation of Healthcare Professionals. Five state legislative bodies (MA, OR, NJ, NY and VT) overwhelmingly passed resolutions urging Congress to enact this bill.

H.R. 1651 The National Nurse Act of 2017 Introduced Twelve years later the legislation that grew from that grass roots effort known as H.R. 1651 The National Nurse Act of 2017 was reintroduced to the 2017 Congress. This legislation designates the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service as the National Nurse for Public Health to raise visibility and increase public and nursing support for health promotion and disease prevention.

The CNO/National Nurse for Public Health would:

1. Function alongside of the Surgeon General and focus on priorities of promoting health, improving health literacy, and decreasing health disparities

2. Serve as a visible national spokesperson for engaging nurses in Leadership, Policy and Prevention efforts

3. Encourage health professionals work and/or volunteer with community programs to improve health

4. Provide guidance and leadership for activities that will increase public safety and emergency preparedness

The National Nurse Act of 2015 came very close to passing. It is hoped 2017 will be year it passes so that the office of the Chief Nursing Officer/National Nurse for Public Health will be better able to guide the nursing profession in promoting, protecting and advancing the nation’s health.

YOU Can Help A small action on your part can go a long way in helping to bring the National Nurse Act to fruition. Please take a moment to contact your elected officials and request that they sign on NOW to support and co sponsor HR 1651. To create the change we want and need, it is imperative that nurses stand together to advocate for health promotion and prevention via a National Nurse for Public Health.


          Now is the Time for a National Nurse   

With the myriad of health-related concerns our country is currently facing, you may be wondering if now is the time to advocate for the designation of a National Nurse for Public Health? The answer is emphatically YES! A National Nurse for Public Health, as proposed by the National Nurse Act, would capitalize on the expertise of nurses in health promotion and prevention of chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer to strengthen the health of the U.S. population.

Why is now the time for a National Nurse? The burden of chronic illness on our society continues to grow. According to the CDC website, chronic diseases account for the majority of healthcare costs in the US. Chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year, and treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86% of our nation's health care costs (CDC, 2017). As we engage in a continued national dialogue about how to decrease healthcare costs and improved health outcomes, enhanced chronic illness management arises as a top priority. Nurses are experts in and champions of chronic disease management.

Yet, the appointment of a National Nurse would do more than improve health outcomes. In the words of Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) in a recent interview , regarding the National Nurse Act of 2015, Johnson stated, "What we want to do is make sure that nurses have the proper labeling, so that they can influence at that level. The more we can upgrade nurses in decision-making capacities, the more they'll be respected for what they really are and they more utilization we can make of their talents."

The National Nurse Act's history of strong bipartisan backing offers another compelling reason to support a National Nurse at a time when political unity is increasingly rare. At the conclusion of the 114th Congress, The National Nurse Act boasted 5 Senate co-sponsors and 97 House co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, with representation of over 32 different states across the nation. These past accomplishments strongly position the National Nurse Act for passage in 2017 during the 115th Congress. The designation of a National Nurse is a relevant cause behind which we can rally in unison. Yes, the US currently faces many pressing health policy issues. Who better to navigate these healthcare challenges than a National Nurse for Public Health? Plans are already underway for the introduction of the National Nurse Act of 2017. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement!


           Faculty and Student Activists Unite Behind National Nurse Act    

Earlier this year Deans of Nursing from Northern Kentucky University, Frontier Nursing University, Murray State University, Morehead State University, and University of Kentucky met with Representative Brett Guthrie (KY-2-R) in his Washington DC office to advocate for H.R. 379, The National Nurse Act of 2015. Personal contact via a face-to-face meeting with an elected official is a very effective way to gain their support.

Meanwhile, students enrolled in the University of Texas Arlington graduate nursing program contacted the NNNO via the Contact Us form at http://nationalnurse.org. They are exploring current nursing legislation in their health policy and leadership course and decided to focus their group presentation on the National Nurse Act. Students plan an interactive class discussion and a letter writing campaign to many U.S. members of Congress representing districts in Texas.

Those wishing to communicate their support for S. 1205 and H.R. 379 are using the template letter and phone script available on the Take Action Link.

All of this activity is making a difference. If you are interested in meeting with your U.S. Representative or Senator to urge their co sponsorship for the National Nurse Act, please email the NNNO Board for materials and talking points. We are here to help make your request a success.


          ANA-Michigan Endorses National Nurse Act   

May 23, 2016

To The Michigan Congressional Delegation:

On behalf of the American Nurses Association (ANA)-Michigan, representing 147,234 registered nurses in Michigan, we are writing to request your co sponsorship of the National Nurse Act of 2015 (H.R. 379) (S. 1205) and express our full support for this legislation.

Designating the Chief Nurse Officer position as the National Nurse for Public Health will help strengthen efforts by nurses in every community to assist in bolstering a nationwide shift to prevention to yield improved health outcomes. The National Nurse for Public Health’s support for the Surgeon General’s focus on prevention, developing nurses as community health advocates, and promoting professional nursing is key to the role nursing plays in our nation’s healthcare infrastructure.

The projected total coat of chronic disease from 2016-2030 in Michigan is $1.3 trillion. In 2015, 6.1 million people in Michigan had at least 1 chronic disease and 2.4 million had 2 or more chronic diseases. Most of these conditions are largely preventable. By promoting health awareness increasing health literacy, and reducing health disparities, the National Nurse for Public Health would play an important role in improving our nation’s health.

Now more than ever, nurses must continue to be proactive in the fight against illness and disease. We recognize the potential of having the National Nurse for Public Health as a representative who would meet with health care leaders to determine ways to address continued health disparities and access issues for the country’s most vulnerable.

As we continue to transform our health systems at the state and national level, it is important that we work to elevate the role of public health nursing to create community level systems, identify public health concerns, and achieve early intervention for identified needs. A philosophical and cultural shift to focus on wellness here in Michigan and on the national level that is reinforced by nurses in every community would go a long way in promoting health, reducing costs, and saving lives.

We request your co sponsorship for the National Nurse Act of 2015 and are ready to work with you to help move this legislation forward.

Respectfully,

MaryLee Pakieser
President
ANA-Michigan


          Gorsuch is already pushing the Supreme Court right on religion, guns and gay rights   

When Judge Neil M. Gorsuch went before the Senate in March as President Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, he sought to assure senators he would be independent and above the political fray.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democratic judge,” he said more than once. “We...


          Fox News Poll: 27 percent favor Senate GOP health care plan, as vote gets delayed (Fox News)   

Fox News:
Fox News Poll: 27 percent favor Senate GOP health care plan, as vote gets delayed  —  By two-to-one, American voters oppose the Senate health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act — even as a majority wants to repeal at least some of the existing law.


          Trump claims GOP has a 'big surprise' on healthcare (Olivia Beavers/The Hill)   

Olivia Beavers / The Hill:
Trump claims GOP has a ‘big surprise’ on healthcare  —  President Trump claimed Wednesday that Senate Republicans have a “big surprise” on their healthcare bill, while also declaring the measure is coming “along very well.”  —  “Healthcare is working along very well,” Trump said after meeting …


          Obama Has Been a Divider, Not a Uniter   

The Pew report notes that this is the extension of a long-term trend. Decades ago, a majority of Democrats approved of Richard Nixon's job performance early in his first term. A majority of Republicans did the same for Jimmy Carter. But that has not been true for any president since.

Ron Brownstein, the author of "The Second Civil War," cites a variety of structural reasons for intensified division. There has been a "sorting-out" of the political parties, making each more ideologically uniform. Long, nasty presidential campaigns stoke our differences. Media outlets have become more partisan. Ideological interest groups have proliferated. Congressional leaders have changed the rules, making it easier to impose party discipline.

But Obama was supposed to be the antidote to the poison of partisanship. During the presidential campaign, chief strategist David Axelrod told Brownstein, "If there's an enhanced Democratic majority, I think that he's going ... to urge a special sense of responsibility to try and forge coalitions around these answers, not because we won't be able to force our will in many cases, but because, ultimately, effective governance requires it in the long term."

That makes last week's votes on the budget resolutions a landmark of ineffective governance. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate supported the bill, largely because the Democratic majority forced its will. Republicans were flattened, not consulted. Democratic leaders talk of enacting controversial elements of the budget through the reconciliation process -- which would require 51 Senate votes, not the normal 60, for passage. Only in Washington would the word "reconciliation" refer to a form of partisan warfare.

Without Republican input or influence, the budget is a tax-and-spend caricature. Obama has complained of inheriting a $1.3 trillion debt. According to economist Michael Boskin, Obama's proposals would add $6.5 trillion in debt over the next decade -- about $163,000 for every American taxpaying family.

I am not generally a deficit hawk. A government can run a responsible deficit in a growing economy -- and may have to run one to counteract an economic downturn. But Obama's proposed level of debt is irresponsible. It makes broad tax increases nearly inevitable. It expands our dependence on China, America's loan officer. And it creates pressure for the government to purchase or monetize debt, leading to inflation. No Republican, even of the moderate variety, could accept a budget that spends America into unsustainable debt by completely avoiding the setting of realistic priorities. And none in Congress did.

There is an argument in favor of political polarization. Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan, in their time, were polarizing presidents precisely because they were ambitious presidents. They believed that some national goals were worth the sacrifice of amity. A decisive leader is sometimes a divisive leader.

But Obama's polarizing approach challenges and changes the core of his political identity. His moderate manner and message appealed to a country weary of division and ambition -- a nation now asked to endure another round of both. But Obama's domestic agenda is also resoundingly typical -- as though he were some conventionally liberal backbench senator suddenly thrust into immense influence. Which, of course, he is.

It would have been relatively easy for President Obama to divide the Republican coalition, peeling off less-partisan Republicans with genuine outreach. Many Republicans were prepared to accept short-term deficits to stimulate the economy in exchange for long-term fiscal responsibility. Obama could have focused more narrowly on resolving the financial crisis -- the key to all economic recovery -- and delayed his ambitions on other issues to a more realistic time. In the process, he might have gotten some Republicans to share his political risks, instead of nursing grievances on the sidelines.

Polarization in American politics has its own disturbing momentum, aided by some strident Republican voices. But that does not require a president to make it worse. And it is a sad, unnecessary shame that Barack Obama, the candidate of unity, has so quickly become another source of division.


          The Senate GOP's health-care bill is a liberal's caricature of conservatism (Marc A. Thiessen/Washington Post)   

Marc A. Thiessen / Washington Post:
The Senate GOP's health-care bill is a liberal's caricature of conservatism  —  Sen. Mitch McConnell has called off a vote this week on the Senate Republican health-care bill.  That's a good thing.  Because if Republicans want to confirm every liberal caricature of conservatism in a single piece …


          Government Versus Confidence   

AIG executives were foolish to use this loophole to "retain" employees, some of whom nearly destroyed the American financial system. But the company did not act with deception or secrecy.

AIG's November SEC filing set out its intention to provide more than $469 million in "retention payments" to employees, eliciting a smattering of congressional protest. Concerns on the broader compensation issue were serious enough to ensure unanimous Senate passage of an amendment to the stimulus bill sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe and Ron Wyden that penalized bailout bonuses in excess of $100,000.

But the Snowe-Wyden amendment disappeared into the misty bog of a House-Senate conference committee, only to be trumped by language that grandfathered AIG's retention bonuses. At first, this seemed to be an example of immaculate legislation -- miraculously fatherless. After explicitly denying responsibility, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd eventually admitted including the exception under pressure from the administration. But it doesn't sound like there was much of a fight. Administration input came from unnamed staffers at the Treasury Department, not high-level officials. Dodd said he viewed these as "innocent modifications."

The lack of focus, judgment and competence on the part of Congress and the administration has explanations -- for those dealing in trillions, millions must seem like dirty pennies on the street. But the hollow outrage and blame-shifting from Congress and the administration are inexcusable.

President Obama vowed to "pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses," when the proper "legal" avenue was to write a responsible law -- a process his own administration apparently undermined. "I'll take responsibility," says the president -- before, in the next few breaths, explaining, "We didn't grant these contracts." And, "We've got a lot on our plate." And, "It's my job to make sure that we fix these messes, even if I don't make them." So Obama seems to be saying: I'll take credit for taking the blame for something that is entirely the fault of others. Positively Clintonian.

"This is an example," thunders Rep. Barney Frank, "of people at the commanding heights of the economy misbehaving, abusing the system" -- which is completely true ... of the conference committee that reshaped the stimulus bill in secret. Sen. Charles Grassley urged AIG executives to contemplate suicide.

This combination of viciousness, shamelessness and cluelessness has consequences. It drains what little political will remains to confront the credit crisis -- an effort that may eventually require spending a trillion dollars or more to help purchase toxic debt. Thanks to AIG, Congress and the administration, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may find his next round of necessary bailouts greeted by a revolt of left and right.

And congressional demagoguery is compromising Geithner's own approach to resolving the credit crisis. Since the direct government purchase of toxic debt would be massively expensive, Geithner has floated the idea of enticing private investors to help buy that debt. The government would give loans or subsidies to mutual funds and hedge funds if they will buy toxic securities. But few would make such a risky investment without the hope of large returns.

If those returns are realized, it is easy to imagine how hedge fund managers would be treated when hauled before Congress. "Perhaps the witness can explain to us how he justifies such windfall profits with the people's money? Have you no shame? Give us the names, addresses and phone numbers of every millionaire you enriched at public expense so we can leak them to the press."

What sane money manager would want to partner with a government that blames others for its mistakes, urges the violation of inconvenient contracts and threatens to tax benefits retroactively? One Wall Street expert told me, "Even if people trust the president, they don't trust Congress." This kind of trust and confidence is essential to the next stage of our economic recovery. It is also being actively undermined by the incompetence and hypocrisy of the government itself.


          Caution and Confusion on Iran   

First, Iran has a presidential election set for June 12, in which the apocalyptic populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces a strong reformist opponent. Ahmadinejad's political standing has been weakened by inflation running over 20 percent and estimated unemployment near 30 percent. His prospects might be strengthened by direct, high-level American engagement. The administration has properly avoided giving a demagogue a global stage during an election.

Second, Iran has not been in a cooperative mood. Ahmadinejad greeted Obama's inaugural appeal -- the outreached hand for the unclenched fist -- with the demand for an apology for "crimes" against Iran and "deep and fundamental" change in U.S. policy. Recently, for good measure, he repeated his assertion that the Holocaust is a "big lie." Earlier this month, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, gave his first public comments on the new era of openness and diplomacy. He attacked Obama for adopting George W. Bush's strategic commitment to Israel, calling that nation a "cancerous tumor." He expressed unequivocal support for terrorist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and criticized Palestinian leaders for any compromise with the "Zionist regime."

Iranian leaders and proxies seem to be taking the offer of negotiations as a sign of American weakness. "The United States," taunts Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, "is ready now to talk with any party, not out of a sense of morality, but because it failed in its attempts to implement its plans in the region."

Meanwhile, the Iranian Quds Force continues to lead, train and arm Shiite terrorists within Iraq. And, in Senate committee testimony last week, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair stated, "Some officials, such as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari-Najafabadi, have hinted that Iran would have a hand in attacks on 'America's interests even in far-away places,' suggesting Iran has contingency plans for unconventional warfare and terrorism against the United States and its allies."

Rather than unclenching its fist, Iran has been pounding it on the table.

Third, Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell have returned from trips to the Middle East sobered by the intensity of Arab fears of Iranian intentions. After visiting with Arab foreign ministers, Clinton recounted hearing "over and over and over again" grave concern about the Iranian threat. A high-profile outreach to Iran would likely be taken by Arab leaders as American betrayal. Given the conspiratorial assumptions of Arab diplomacy, they would assume that America is cutting a secret deal with Iran -- and be led to cut such deals of their own.

So the administration has adopted an incremental approach. Clinton has proposed an international conference on Afghanistan that would include Iranian officials, providing a chance for face-to-face meetings on the sidelines -- just as Condoleezza Rice called for an international conference on Iraq including Iranian officials, whom she met face-to-face on the sidelines. And Clinton has undertaken an outreach to Syria -- just as Rice reached out to Syria before the 2007 Annapolis peace conference.

Far from being impulsive on Iran, the administration has sent mixed signals about its sense of urgency. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently concluded that Iran has sufficient stockpiles of low-enriched uranium -- the most difficult part of the enrichment cycle -- to build a nuclear weapon after a short period of further enrichment. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, says he believes "Iran is on a path to develop nuclear weapons." At the same time, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates contends, "They're not close to a weapon at this point" and asserts that the "barrier" for military action against Iran is the question "Are we going to be attacked here at home?" -- which doesn't offer much consolation to Israel or America's Arab friends.

At this point, the administration is combining a policy of caution with a message of confusion. And it does not seem likely to persuade or intimidate.


          Cory Booker's marching orders on repeal bill: Two more weeks to "fight against evil" (Alison R. Parker/Shareblue)   

Alison R. Parker / Shareblue:
Cory Booker's marching orders on repeal bill: Two more weeks to “fight against evil”  —  The Republicans have delayed their vote on their health care plan.  But this is not the time to lose focus or allow apathy to settle in.  —  Senate Republicans kept the details of their health care repeal bill a secret for as long as they could.


          Skelos & Son: Focus Of Federal Probe   
A federal grand jury is reportedly taking a hard look at business dealings involving New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son....
          Report: NYS Senate Majority Leader Skelos Focus Of Federal Corruption Inquiry   
The New York Times, citing people familiar with the matter, reports that federal prosecutors are providing evidence to a grand jury in a case against...
          Market Talk- Wednesday, June 28   
The news from the US Senate, after their markets had closed, worried Asia as they responded to the news. On the whole core markets were lower, the exception being a +0.7% increase in the Australian ASX.
          Was Russia behind Brexit? Did Le Pen fall on Vlad's sword? What will happen in Germany? THIS is your Senate Intelligence Committee hearing thread "Russian interference in Europe" edition. (10am ET start time) [Live]   
Live [link] [110 comments]

          School Safety Bills Head to Senate Vote   
The full State Senate is scheduled to vote Tuesday on several bills filed in the aftermath of deadly shootings at Connecticut’s Sandyhook Elementary School. The bills would require schools to craft safety procedures in conjunction with local law enforcement and have their plans reviewed annually by the state. A third bill would keep the details of school safety plans out of the public record. The measure has drawn the ire of open government advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union. The group’s Rhode Island director, Steve Brown, says shrouding safety plans in secrecy keeps parents out of the discussion. Supporters of the bill argue that parents can still give input on school safety, however they would not have access to details of the final plan. Advocates insist the goal of the legislation is to keep key information away from anyone who might use it to harm students and teachers.
          Senate Approves School Safety Drills   
The Rhode Island Senate has passed a bill requiring monthly safety drills at all public elementary and secondary schools. The bill also calls for two lockdown drills every year. Supporters say the requirement will make students and staff more familiar with school safety procedures. The bill is part of a series of measures aimed at increasing school safety in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. The incident killed 20 students and 6 staff members, and it has sparked a national debate about gun control.
          Senate Plans Vote on School Safety   
A vote scheduled today in the Rhode Island Senate could change the way public schools conduct emergency drills. The measure is a response to the mass shooting in Newtown Connecticut, where 26 elementary school students and teachers were gunned down during the school day. The bill calls for monthly emergency drills including lockdowns and emergency evacuations. The idea is to better prepare school staff to handle a situation like the one in Newtown. Today's vote comes less than a week after a report of a gunman shut down the University of Rhode Island campus for several hours. It also follows the introduction of a package of gun-related bills at the statehouse and an ongoing national debate in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Rhode Island lawmakers are considering several other school safety measures, including one that has raised concerns from open government advocates. The measure would allow school committees to craft emergency plans behind closed doors.
          School Safety Returns to Spotlight   
Rhode Island lawmakers will consider legislation Wednesday aimed at increasing safety measures in public schools. The bills, now in the House and Senate Education Committees, would require school and law enforcement officials to work together to look for weaknesses in building security and craft new school safety plans. Many parents and teachers became concerned about school security after a shooter opened fire on unarmed students and teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. Debate on the Rhode Island bills comes as Connecticut lawmakers prepare to vote on a broad package of tough gun control measures in response to the shooting.
          Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote   
WASHINGTON (AP) " In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even...
          McConnell To Release Repeal And Replace Bill Thursday   
Republican Senator Rand Paul is slamming the effort by his Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Paul said he won’t know how he will vote until the bill is released to legislators later this week.
          Senate Heads Toward Showdown Vote on Saudi Arms Sale   
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul opposes President Donald Trump’s proposed weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. The Senate is heading toward a showdown vote over the proposal.
          Activists Rally to Urge Rand Paul to Support an Independent Investigation into Russian Influence   
A handful of southern Kentucky activists rallied at the Bowling Green office of U.S. Senator Rand Paul in support of a national campaign to urge the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to establish an independent investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rand Paul is a member of that committee.
          McConnell, Paul Vote to Confirm Education Secretary   
Kentucky’s two U.S. Senators have voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. The full U.S. Senate voted 50-50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote to confirm DeVos. The Republican donor and school-choice advocate has been scrutinized over his qualifications to head the federal education department. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calls Devos well-qualified who has earned the support of several governors and education groups across the nation. In a statement, McConnell said parents, students, teachers, and state and local governments are best suited to make education decisions. Senator Paul responded that-quote-increasing the choices for parents and students and getting Washington out of the way are the most important things the federal government can do to improve educational opportunities-end of quote. More than 50 constituents rallied outside of Paul’s Bowling Green office last week to protest Devos’s nomination.
          Gray Rates His Showing in Senate Race as ‘Respectable’   
Democrat Jim Gray fell short in his bid to upend incumbent GOP U.S. Senator Rand Paul. But, the two-term Lexington mayor said Tuesday night he felt good about his showing in the statewide race.
          Former state Supreme Court justice launches 2018 Senate campaign   
Former Michigan Supreme Court justice Robert Young Jr. has officially launched his campaign for U.S. Senate in Michigan. In a video announcement streamed live over Facebook on Wednesday, the 66-year-old Republican said he'll seek the 2018 nomination for the seat held by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat. "I have the experience and the guts to know how to unseat Debbie Stabenow. I am the disrupter that [Washington] DC needs," Young said. Young, who served on the high court for 17 years before stepping down in April, says he's "not a politician." He says he's a judge who's "going to lay down the law" in Washington. "My experience as a chief justice and a judge helps me understand how to stop sanctuary cities and illegal immigration, and how to make our community safer and secure," Young said. Young last week disclosed his Senate plans last week at a meeting of local Republicans in Midland. He describes himself as a black, conservative Republican and says those words are "almost never
          Protestors in Detroit warn against Republican health care bill   
Some protestors in Detroit think the Senate Republicans' health care bill is bad for Michigan. The group of protestors marched outside of Senator Debbie Stabenow's Detroit office despite the fact that like most Democrats, she opposes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
          By: Gary H. Pon   
+1 to Mark's post. I do believe that the Senate, as an institution, still performs a valuable function. I am not in favour of another elected house ... we can see from the U.S. example that this is a formula for gridlock. I am okay with an 8-year term limit, but I believe that senators who are appointed would be best able to provide for 'sober second thought' where elected officials may have overreached in pandering to populist demands. First past the post democracy is not perfect. The continuation of partisan appointments is what is most troublesome to me. Perhaps appointments should be taken out of the PM's hands to some committee made up some broader composition: representatives from the provinces, opposition parties, even 'special interest' groups ? Legally-trained people are well-represented in the House. Perhaps the Senate can provide further balance, not just regionally, but also in demographics, professions, perspectives ?
          Comment on Senate May Eliminate Double Majority Protection by when an leo man loves a cancer woman   
<strong>Title</strong> [...]Sites of interest we've a link to[...]
          By: Mark   
Ginger, your argument is not against the institution of the Senate, it is against the individual Senators and the PMs that have put them there, which I agree with. That is the point myself and the other were trying to make, it is not the institution, it is how it has been used. The institution serves a useful role why don't we demand that it be used properly rather than, the very difficult process, of trying to abolish it? The Senate costs approximately $100 million per year, which relatively speaking, is a drop in the bucket of a federal budget of circa 200 billion dollars. A conspiratorial minded person might even think that people wanted public perception of the Senate to turn this way over the long run, but I'm not about to run around Ottawa looking for grassy knolls.
          By: Ginger Goodwin   
Abolishing the Senate would be a positive development. Historically the Senate, or the second Chamber in many political systems, was a political institution acting as a bulwark against democratically elected political representatives in the other chamber. In Canada the Senate has served as a parking place for the rich ruling political and economic class or group to oversee the House of Commons. However over the last few years it also served to place burned out bureaucrats and politicians, entertainers (Banks, Wallin and Duffy more recently) and hockey players. Rarely have these persons been ‘qualified’ in the traditional sense of the word. As well political hacks and election organizers historically held pride of place (Keith the Rainmaker and Akins). Watching the Senate committee hearings is usually a painful experience as politicians and bureaucrats dance circles around the Senators and treat them as swine receiving pearls. The Senators invariably thank these witnesses in glowing terms and fall over themselves apologizing for having to go quickly because of the time constraints. One would think if the subject is important then, time should be allocated. It would be better to take the Senate money and put it to good use.
          By: John G   
I agree with Mark and Mickey that Senate committees often do useful work. They bring expertise to the table that Commons committees either don't bother with or spend their time scoring political points with. They often improve legislation. Whether Harper's Senate appointees reflect his government's intense partisanship to the point of harming that capacity, I don't know. My impressions date from before his time.
          By: Michael (Mickey) Posluns   
I'm delighted to meet Mark Lewis, author of "Sober thoughts squared" via SLAW. I have been following Senate Debates and committee proceedings for about 50 years, since I discovered them in the North York Reference Library in my last year of high school. The initial attraction was the low level of partisanship and the higher degree of literacy than the Commons Debates. Then I discovered committee proceedings, which have long been the heart of the Senate's work. Canadian ignorance of our institutions combined with a boycott of Senate coverage by much of the media combine to fuel the antipathy. Many of the Committee Reports have been quite ground breaking. The Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples has produced at least a dozen significant reports since "Forging New Relationships" in 2000. When testimony is reported the name of the committee is almost always omitted. This is the case not only in the main stream media but even in some ostensibly professional journals. A recent report in a journal for medical academics reported that a certain professor had "testified before the Senate about ..." Well, he had testified before a Senate Committee studying a bill on sentencing and criminal responsibility. I inquired of the journal editors whether the same attitude to accuracy prevails in their medical coverage. One point I have not raised elsewhere is about an impeachment of a Supreme Court of Ontario judge, about my first year at Carleton U. Some skullduggery from his time as mayor of North Bay came to the surface. He refused to resign. Judges can only be removed by a resolution of both Houses. I happened to drop in to the Senate gallery on the day that the then Leader of the (Diefenbaker) Government in the Senate, Walter Aseltine, gave notice that two days hence he would move for the movement of the judge from N. Bay. His offence was at least as grievous as the crimes of which Senators have been accused in the last couple of years (Brazeau excluded). Nobody suggested abolishing the judiciary. We seem to be content merely to rename the courts periodically. Michael (Mickey) Posluns.
          Comment on Oregon Senate urges Medal of Honor for WW II hero by hydrogen water bottle   
<strong>Title</strong> [...]Here are a number of the sites we advise for our visitors[...]
          Female activists wear ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ costumes to protest planned parenthood   

HandmaidsActivists dressed up as handmaid’s from The Handmaid’s tale this week in a protest against Trump’s healthcare bill. Planned Parenthood and MoveOn.org collaborated on Tuesday in Washington against the Senate Republicans’ healthcare bill. The new healthcare bill in the U.S would leave an estimated 22 million Americans without health insurance. Women’s reproductive rights would suffer...

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Source: WeAreTheCity - Information and jobs portal for business women


          Massachusetts Special Election Poll   
The Foundation, as part of The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University partnership series, conducted a poll to better understand how health care played into the mix of issues and frustrations that brought voters to the polls in the Massachusetts special election for U.S. Senate. The poll was conducted among a random sample of 880 votersMore


          Senate leaders scramble for deal on health care bill   
The Republican Party's long-promised repeal of "Obamacare" stands in limbo after Senate GOP leaders, short of support,...

          Beyond repeal of Obamacare   
The proposed Medicaid cuts in the new U.S. Senate bill could impact coverage for 400,000 Arkansas children.

On June 22, Republicans in the U.S. Senate introduced a long-awaited bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, the health care law often referred to as Obamacare. The Better Care Reconciliation Act would rework the ACA's subsidies for individual insurance policies, cut taxes for higher-income households, end the mandate that individuals have insurance, and allow states to opt out of ACA requirements that insurance policies include benefits such as mental health and maternity coverage. It would also put an end to the enhanced funding rate that made it possible to expand Medicaid to cover some 14.4 million low-income adults nationwide.

But the Senate bill, like similar legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in May, would also institute major cuts to the traditional Medicaid program, potentially affecting coverage for millions of children, elderly people and disabled adults nationwide. In Arkansas, 30 percent of the state's population — about 912,000 people — were enrolled in some form of Medicaid in March 2017, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That figure includes enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which together with Medicaid pays for ARKids A and B.

Marquita Little, health policy director at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said the Senate bill "goes well beyond the political promise of repealing Obamacare. It restructures Medicaid funding. And so, it really is a U-turn on the promise that the federal government has always made to states — that Medicaid would be funded through a state-federal partnership." (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has contributed funding to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

The Senate bill would reshape Medicaid in two ways. First, beginning in 2021, it would phase out the Medicaid expansion created by the ACA, which provides coverage to low-income adults. Approximately 300,000 Arkansans are now enrolled in Arkansas Works, the program funded by the Medicaid expansion. Second, the Senate bill would cap federal spending on the rest of Medicaid, which existed long before the ACA's expansion and which is composed of programs such as ARKids. Rather than Medicaid paying for patients' medical care on an open-ended basis, as is now the case, the federal government would disburse funds to states in lump sums, either on a per capita basis or through block grants. The Congressional Budget Office projects 22 million people would lose coverage if the Senate bill become law.

Parents like Julie Kauffman of Mountain Home are anxiously watching developments in Washington and wondering how the proposed cuts would translate to Arkansas. Kauffman's daughter, Olive, suffers from cerebral palsy that resulted from viral encephalitis that developed 12 days after she was born. After the infant was airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital, Kauffman and her husband were told their private Blue Cross policy would pay for less than half of the helicopter ride, leaving them on the hook for $7,000.

"That was kind of our first introduction to, 'Oh, our health insurance doesn't cover what our child needs,' " Kauffman said. The financial office at the hospital told the parents they should get Olive on Medicaid. "I thought, 'We have health insurance, this is ridiculous. We don't need Medicaid.' Two helicopter rides later, and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars later, we desperately need Medicaid."

Now 3 years old, Olive's condition requires periodic visits to specialists at the Cerebral Palsy Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, plus regular speech, occupational and physical therapy sessions at a clinic in Mountain Home. She now spends nine hours in therapy per week. "What Blue Cross covers for her and therapy, she maxes out every year in February. That's when Medicaid picks up the rest of her tally," Kauffman said.

It's especially crucial that Olive receive intensive therapy at a young age, Kauffman explained, to maximize her chances of developing the skills necessary to lead a more independent life. "It's now or never. I mean, we have to do it now. She's 30 pounds. She doesn't have head control. She can't sit up and feed herself. She's nonverbal. She's, you know, total care, and unless we get as much bang for our buck now, what does her future look like?" On July 1, a new rule from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, which administers Medicaid in Arkansas, will limit the number of billable minutes of speech, occupational and physical therapy a beneficiary may receive each week without special authorization. The cap is 90 minutes for each category — about half what Olive receives right now. DHS said in a September legal notice that the change is estimated to save the Arkansas Medicaid budget $56.2 million annually. Kauffman said she will seek DHS approval to keep paying for the additional therapy hours, but she's concerned about the future.

"What's happening in the state alone, along with what's coming down from the federal level — it's just terrifying."

Kauffman said her biggest concerns about the Senate bill "are the cuts and the block grants. If it comes down to a block grant system where the federal government gives each state a set amount of dollars, how is that going to be disbursed from child to child? I don't know how they would even begin to figure that out. My kid is expensive, and that's not her fault. ... I understand the thought process that Medicaid cannot sustain at the rate that it's going. But there are also a lot of kids in my daughter's situation who didn't ask for this. They need as much help as they can possibly get, and in a perfect world her private insurance would cover what she needs — but it just doesn't."

Olive previously was on ARKids but now has Medicaid coverage through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Disability. "Because my husband and I are both self-employed and our income fluctuates, she qualifies for SSI at the moment — but that could change at any moment," Kauffman said. She is a subcontractor for a medical billing company; her husband owns a furniture company, where she also works part time. Although their daughter receives substantial government benefits, the couple also ends up devoting much of their household income to her care as well, from specialized equipment to travel costs to St. Louis to therapy that must be paid for out-of-pocket. For the self-employed, time away from home is time spent not working — an additional drain on family resources.

"We're fortunate to have grandparents who chip in when they can and relatives who help out as needed, but, for the most part, we're just doing the best we can do to get by," she said. "We could have $10 million and it still wouldn't be enough."

Approximately 400,000 kids in Arkansas are on Medicaid — about half the children in the state. Only a small percentage have medical needs as pronounced as Olive's. Nonetheless, Marquita Little said, reductions to federal Medicaid spending proposed by the Senate bill would be "devastating to our medical system in Arkansas.

"Our overall impression is that it's still a dangerous bill for kids, for our most vulnerable populations ... [including] seniors, people with disabilities. By capping funding on traditional Medicaid, we would basically be reducing funding that we have in place for those populations. ... So what that means for Arkansas is that we would be forced to make some tough decisions about how we absorb those cuts. You either have to reduce what you actually cover, or you have to reduce payments that we're making to providers."

Having a child who requires such specialized care has changed her perception of Medicaid and those who benefit from the program, Kauffman said. "The biggest thing is that Medicaid helps so many more people than just what everybody assumes... . You know, people who don't want to go out and find a job and take care of themselves. Medicaid is so much more than that. So I think it's just this misconception ... and I was guilty of that. But now I know how needed it is."

This reporting is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.


          unveiling of the truth   
Today, the bust of Sojourner Truth was unveiled in the during a gala celebration held in Emancipation Hall of the United States Capital.

Created by
Artis Lane, the bust was completely funded through private funds ans will remain on permanent display in the underground visitor center's main space, called Emancipation Hall in part because slaves helped build the Capitol.

"We're here because of barriers she challenged and fought to tear down, and paths she helped to forge and trod alone," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said to an audience gathered at the visitor's center to celebrate Truth's legacy and watch Mrs. Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others unveil the bronze bust of Truth.

Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them. I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America. First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama
The National Congress of Black Women, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of black women and their families, has pushed for Truth to be memorialized in the Capitol for almost 10 years. In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law a requirement that a bust of Truth be placed in a "suitable, permanent location in the Capitol." Clinton co-sponsored the measure when she served in the Senate.

But now we are. And who better to begin the representation — this is not the end of the representation ... who better to begin than Sojourner Truth? Kim Fuller, National Congress of Black Women
Obliged to you for hearing me,
and now old SjP ain't got nothin' more to say...
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Black News Junkie ~ ~ Technorati ~ ~ Del.iciou.us ~ ~ Digg This! ~ ~ StumbleUpon ~ ~ Twitter ~ ~ My Good Towels ~ ~ FeedBlitz ~ ~ Email SjP

          UPDATE: Senate VA chairman deals blow to TECS program   
Experimental VA pilot misses mark by offering screenings in place of comprehensive eye exams.
          Weekly News Roundup- June 28, 2013   
Coalition Supports New Great Lakes Bill June 26- The Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition is supporting a new bill in the U.S. Senate that would help bolster federal efforts …
          Trump interrupted a call with the Irish prime minister to tell a reporter in the Oval Office that she 'had a nice smile'   

donald trumpAP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump interrupted a diplomatic phone call with newly elected Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to tell a reporter she had a "nice smile."

During a phone call with Varadkar on Tuesday, Trump noted that he was joined in the Oval Office by "all of this beautiful Irish press," and asked RTE White House reporter Caitriona Perry to come over closer to his desk.

"She has a nice smile on her face, so I bet she treats you well," Trump said to the prime minister.

The moment quickly went viral after Perry shared it on Twitter.

Watch the clip:

NOW WATCH: 'I'll ask it one more time': Kellyanne Conway won't say whether Trump thinks climate change is a hoax

See Also:

SEE ALSO: 10 months ago, Univision bought Gawker in a fire sale, and it's been messy ever since


          Wall Street stocks surge as banks, tech sectors spark rebound   

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - Wall Street stock rallied sharply on Wednesday, with the benchmark S&P 500 index scoring its biggest one-day percentage gain in about two months, as financial and technology stocks led a broad market rebound.

The Nasdaq posted its best session since Nov. 7, the day before the U.S. presidential election.

The S&P 500 had suffered its biggest one-day drop in about six weeks on Tuesday after a healthcare bill was delayed in the U.S. Senate.

The healthcare legislation is the first major plank of President Trump's domestic policy agenda, with investors eager for him to move onto his other plans including tax cuts, infrastructure spending and deregulation.

Investors may be reevaluating the impact of the Senate's delay on the market and Trump's agenda, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

"The market has had trouble really appreciating, but it has had even more trouble declining," Meckler said. "It seems like any negative period is very quickly met with new buyers."

"Interest rates are still very low and a lot of investors see little opportunity to invest anywhere but in stocks," he added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 143.95 points, or 0.68 percent, to 21,454.61, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 21.31 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,440.69 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 87.79 points, or 1.43 percent, to 6,234.41.

The small-cap Russell 2000 <.RUT> ended up 1.6 percent.

Financials <.SPSY> were the best performing S&P sector, rising 1.6 percent.

Bank stocks including JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America helped boost the S&P 500, both rising more than 2.0 percent. The interest rate-sensitive group was helped by an increase in yields for 10-year Treasuries and by a widening spread between shorter- and longer-dated U.S. bonds.

"We have had the statements from various Fed officials that they are still on board with the tightening cycle and that has been a big driver for finance names," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

Bank stocks also were higher ahead of stress test results from the Federal Reserve and added to those gains in after-hours trading as the Fed approved plans from the 34 largest U.S. banks to use extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes.

Tech stocks <.SPLRCT> gained 1.3 percent, surging back from their worst day in more than two weeks. The sector has led the S&P 500's 9-percent gain this year, but has pulled back recently as some investors question whether the group is too expensive.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq bounced off its 50-day moving average.

With second-quarter U.S. corporate earnings reporting set to begin in earnest in July, investors are looking for results to support equity valuations. The S&P 500 is trading at nearly 18 times forward earnings estimates, above its long-term average of 15 times.

In earnings news, General Mills shares rose 1.6 percent after the Cheerios cereal maker reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

Staples shares rose 8.4 percent. The company will announce its sale to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 3.18-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.29-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

About 6.7 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the 7.2 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

(Additional reporting by Kimberly Chin in New York and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Nick Zieminski)


          US STOCKS-Wall Street stocks surge as banks, tech sectors spark rebound   

* S&P 500 best day in two months; Nasdaq best day since Nov7

* Bank stocks gain after hours after Fed clears capitalplans

* General Mills shares rise after quarterly earnings

* Indexes up: Dow 0.68 pct, S&P 0.88 pct, Nasdaq 1.43 pct(Updates to add bank stocks rising after Fed stress tests inparagraph 13)

By Lewis Krauskopf

June 28 (Reuters) - Wall Street stock rallied sharply onWednesday, with the benchmark S&P 500 index scoring its biggestone-day percentage gain in about two months, as financial andtechnology stocks led a broad market rebound.

The Nasdaq posted its best session since Nov. 7, the daybefore the U.S. presidential election.

The S&P 500 had suffered its biggest one-day drop in aboutsix weeks on Tuesday after a healthcare bill was delayed in theU.S. Senate.

The healthcare legislation is the first major plank ofPresident Trump's domestic policy agenda, with investors eagerfor him to move onto his other plans including tax cuts,infrastructure spending and deregulation.

Investors may be reevaluating the impact of the Senate'sdelay on the market and Trump's agenda, said Rick Meckler,president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, NewJersey.

"The market has had trouble really appreciating, but it hashad even more trouble declining," Meckler said. "It seems likeany negative period is very quickly met with new buyers."

"Interest rates are still very low and a lot of investorssee little opportunity to invest anywhere but in stocks," headded.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 143.95 points,or 0.68 percent, to 21,454.61, the S&P 500 gained 21.31points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,440.69 and the Nasdaq Compositeadded 87.79 points, or 1.43 percent, to 6,234.41.

The small-cap Russell 2000 ended up 1.6 percent.

Financials were the best performing S&P sector,rising 1.6 percent.

Bank stocks including JP Morgan Chase and Bank ofAmerica helped boost the S&P 500, both rising more than2.0 percent. The interest rate-sensitive group was helped by anincrease in yields for 10-year Treasuries and by a wideningspread between shorter- and longer-dated U.S. bonds.

"We have had the statements from various Fed officials thatthey are still on board with the tightening cycle and that hasbeen a big driver for finance names," said Peter Jankovskis,co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC inLisle, Illinois.

Bank stocks also were higher ahead of stress test resultsfrom the Federal Reserve and added to those gains in after-hourstrading as the Fed approved plans from the 34 largest U.S. banksto use extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and otherpurposes.

Tech stocks gained 1.3 percent, surging back fromtheir worst day in more than two weeks. The sector has led theS&P 500's 9-percent gain this year, but has pulled back recentlyas some investors question whether the group is too expensive.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq bounced off its 50-day moving average.

With second-quarter U.S. corporate earnings reporting set tobegin in earnest in July, investors are looking for results tosupport equity valuations. The S&P 500 is trading at nearly 18times forward earnings estimates, above its long-term average of15 times.

In earnings news, General Mills shares rose 1.6percent after the Cheerios cereal maker reported abetter-than-expected quarterly profit.

Staples shares rose 8.4 percent. The company willannounce its sale to private equity firm Sycamore Partners, aperson familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a3.18-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.29-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

About 6.7 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges,below the 7.2 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.(Additional reporting by Kimberly Chin in New York and TanyaAgrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Nick Zieminski)


          Rand Paul kisses neocons' ring, but some neocons remain wary   
One faction of the GOP that has remained particularly wary of Rand Paul's Senate candidacy are neoconservatives who are still angry about his father Ron Paul's criticism of Israel and his disdain for Bush-era military adventurism.
          Congress Seeks to put Dietary Supplement Makers in Jail for Ten Years!   
The Senate is debating a bill that will enable the FDA to put vitamin supplement makers in jail for ten years if they cite findings from peer-reviewed published scientific studies on the label of their dietary supplements or their Web site.
          Top Senate Republican expresses optimism on healthcare bill after Trump meeting   

(Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said a meeting between Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump on healthcare was helpful and he expressed optimism the Senate would eventually pass a bill to repeal Obamacare.

The post Top Senate Republican expresses optimism on healthcare bill after Trump meeting appeared first on Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting.


          Farmer, consumer outcry helping to stop passage of draconian 'food safety' bill   
Advocates of Senate Bill 510 (S.510) -- also known as the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act -- are lamenting the delayed passage of the sweeping legislation that many say threatens American food freedom. According to reports, opposition from the public, local farmers and some members of Congress could delay a vote on the bill until November -- and may even kill it completely.
          US Lawmakers seek power to 'shut down' Web sites in other countries   
A bill introduced in the US Senate on Monday would give US law enforcement authorities more tools to crack down on websites engaged in piracy of movies, television shows and music.
          Social Engineering Bill In Senate Will Force You Into City   
A social engineering bill to restrict residence in the suburbs and rural areas and force Americans into city centers has passed the United States Senate Banking Committee and is on the fast track to passage in the Senate.
          Having Won the Obamacare Battle, Harry Reid Is Losing the War    
Forty days into the rollout of Obamacare, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has to be looking for the hot tub time machine that would let him do September all over again.   You remember September, right? When Reid outwitted the half-cooked Re
          Police: Officers shoot gunman on Capitol Hill   
Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer, who is responsible for maintaining security in the Capitol, said in a statement that the man had a loaded, semiautomatic handgun and had parked his car near where he was shot.
          GOP searches for answers on health care   
A day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to delay a vote on the Senate version of President Trump's health care overhaul, Republican leaders are looking for a way to overcome resistance from across the Republican spectrum.

          'He doesn't seem like a serious person': Trump on Schumer   
While meeting with the World Series-winning Chicago Cubs at the White House, President Trump was asked by reporter if he would accept Senator Chuck Schumer's request to meet with the entire Senate chamber to craft a bipartisan healthcare bill. President Trump replied, 'I gotta find out if he's serious... he just doesn't seem like a serious person'. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

          'We're going to get it over the line': Trump on healthcare   
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed confidence that the Republican-led Senate would ultimately prevail in passing legislation aimed at repealing and replacing the 2010 healthcare law passed under his predecessor, former president Barack Obama. Rough cut (no reporter narration).

          McConnell's Reputation as a Master Tactician Takes a Hit - New York Times   

New York Times

McConnell's Reputation as a Master Tactician Takes a Hit
New York Times
Senator Mitch McConnell on Tuesday delayed a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times. WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has long enjoyed a reputation as a master ...
McConnell is trying to revise the Senate health-care bill by FridayWashington Post
Polls show GOP health bill bleeding outPolitico
Healthcare debate highlights the split that threatens to paralyze RepublicansLos Angeles Times
The Hill -Fox News -NBCNews.com -ABC News
all 3,861 news articles »

          Reid adds controversial immigration measure to defense bill    
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he will add the DREAM Act, a controversial immigration measure, to a defense policy bill the Senate will take up next week.
          The 1099 Insurrection    
You might not have seen it reported, but the Senate will vote this morning on whether to repeal part of ObamaCare that it passed only months ago
          The Latest: Senate Intel Committee has deal on Comey memos   
6:15 p.m. The Senate Intelligence Committee has a deal to get former FBI Director James Comey's memos of his conversations with President Donald Trump.
          NRA Supports BATF Firearms Modernization Act    
On Tuesday, September 14, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on reforming current regulation of commerce in firearms–especially in the area of dealer licensing and oversight–by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
          Chris Dodd's last act: 'Control the people'   
Alarms are being raised over what probably is retiring Sen. Christopher Dodd's last major piece of legislation – the Livable Communities Act, which has been approved by the Senate Banking Committee and now is heading to the Senate floor – for its likely U.N. inspiration and goal of controlling people.
           Proposed Combustible Dust Bill Relationship to OSHA Regulations    
Proposed Combustible Dust Legislation H.R. 691,Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act of 2013. Presentation illustrates relationship of proposed combustible dust bill with OSHA regulations. Approximately 40% of the requirements are mirrored from content in the OSHA Fire Prevention Plan 1910.39 in addition to approximately 50% of content analogous to OSHA's Process Safety Management 1910.119 regulations.



Many of the NFPA combustible dust standards also include elements of Process Safety Management (PSM) such as management of change (MOC), accident investigations, contractor training, etc. Additionally elements in the requirements of the proposed bill include: Hazard Assessment 1910.132, Hazard Communication (HazCom) 1910.1200, Process Safety Management (PSM) 1910.119, Lock-out/Tag-out (LOTO)1910.147, and Hot Work 190.252.

The proposed reintroduced legislation fails to address in the "findings" the importance of training, education, outreach, inspections, and enforcement at the local jurisdictional level with the I-Codes such as the International Building Code and International Fire Code which reference the NFPA combustible dust standards. There exponentially  more local building and fire inspectors conducting plan review, permit approval, and inspections than the limited resources of OSHA inspectors working out of distant area offices. Fires can never be effectively regulated at the federal level since fire prevention and protection is a local issue. A cohesive collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies would be a equitable solution in addressing the contentious and complex subject of combustible dust fire and explosion hazards in H-2 High-Hazard occupancies which appear to many as benign deflagration hazards with the continued occurrence of "near misses" throughout all sectors

YouTube video on slide #2 is Representative George Miller (D), Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, making a statement during floor debate on HR 5522, the Worker Protection Against Combustible Dust Explosions and Fires Act, on April 30, 2008. The bill passed in the House of Representatives April 30, 2008, 6:56 p.m. with a 247/165 simple majority vote but was never passed by the Senate.

          Illinois lawmakers scramble to approve budget by Saturday   

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, answers questions before attending a meeting of the four legislative leaders at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, June 27, 2017. less Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, answers questions before attending a meeting of the four legislative leaders at the Capitol in Springfield, Ill., Tuesday, June 27, 2017.


          Rev. Al Sharpton Covers The Latest On The Healthcare Bill   
06/28/17 – Reverend Al Sharpton encourages people to remain steadfast in the fight against the Senate health care bill despite its latest hiccup. Like BlackAmericaWeb.com on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram Sign Up For Our Newsletter!
          Liberal Media Focuses on One Statistic in CBO Study on Obamacare Replacement Bill   
The liberal media can only focus on liberal talking points about repealing and replacing Obamacare, which law had increased premiums at an alarming pace and disrupted the health care system and health insurance system. NBC News and CNN only felt like highlighting the potential uninsured…in 2026: NBC News: CBO: Senate health care bill would leave […]
          Senate Vote On Inhumane Trumpcare Bill Gets Put On Hold Due To Lack Of GOP Support   
The CBO found that this legislation would translate into 22 million more people becoming uninsured by 2026 years than under Obamacare.
          The Medicaid Spending Caps Are More Complex Than They Seem   
Much has been said about the per capita spending caps on Medicaid in the Senate health-care bill. But little attention has been paid to the fact that the spending caps are not uniform. Most importantly, there are special rules for the disabled and the elderly, who together account for about one-quarter of Medicaid enrollment. To get technical, the per capita caps work by penalizing states whose “adjusted total medical assistance expenditures” exceed their “target total medical assistance expenditures.” In other words, states that spend more on Medicaid than they’re supposed to lose some of their federal matching funds the following year. The
Read More ...
          What Is It about 17 Percent?   
There was a poll a while ago that had the House health-care bill at 17 percent. Now there's a poll that has the Senate bill at 17 percent. Considering the source of this poll -- NPR/PBS -- you might want to take it with a grain of salt. But there's no doubt that the Republican effort is unpopular, in part because it's largely been an inside game with no one really making the public case (which is what the president usually would do in these circumstances) and the CBO numbers have been crushingly bad PR. As I noted last night,
Read More ...
          In Win for Environmentalists, Senate Keeps an Obama-Era Climate Change Rule   
Senators voted 51 to 49 to block a measure that would have undone a regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells on public land.
          Canada Quick Facts   
Canada is huge. It spans six time zones from 'Sea to Sea to Sea' and is the world's second largest country with an area of 9, 970, 610 square kilometres (3, 849,656 square miles).

Canada is huge. It spans six time zones from "Sea to Sea to Sea" and is the world's second largest country with an area of 9, 970, 610 square kilometres (3, 849,656 square miles).

Borders:

Canada is surrounded by three oceans - the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Arctic Ocean to the north. To the south is the United States of America, which shares almost 9,000 kilometres of undefended border with Canada.

Provinces and Territories:

Ottawa, located in the province of Ontario, is the capital of Canada. Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories, each with its own capital city:

Alberta - Edmonton

British Columbia - Victoria

Manitoba - Winnipeg

New Brunswick - Fredericton

Newfoundland & Labrador - St. John's

Northwest Territories - Yellowknife

Nova Scotia - Halifax

Nunavut - Iqaluit

Ontario - Toronto

Prince Edward Island - Charlottetown

Quebec - City of Québec

Saskatchewan - Regina

Yukon Territory - Whitehorse

Population:

30,750,100 people living in Canada

Distribution: 77% urban, 23% rural

Indigenous Peoples: North American Indian 69%, Métis 26%, Inuit 5%

Official Languages: English and French

Languages Spoken: English 59%, French 23%, Other 18%
For detailed Canadian Statistics check the Statistics Canada Web site.

Political System:

Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy. The Canadian parliamentary system is modeled after the British form of government and consists of the Crown, Senate and House of Commons.

The Crown, or Queen, is the traditional Head of State who is represented in Canada by the Governor General. The Crown delegates authority to the Governor General, who acts on her behalf in a mostly symbolic role as the Head of State. The office of the Governor General is one of Canada's oldest institutions, dating back almost 400 years.

The Senate, or Upper House, consists of 105 members appointed by the Governor General upon the advice of the Prime Minister. The Senate and House of Commons share similar authorities, but only the House of Commons can introduce financial legislation. The House of Commons, or Lower House, is the primary legislative body of Parliament representing 301 Canadian electoral districts.

Every five years voters elect local members to the House of Commons and the political party with the most representatives forms the government. The party leader becomes the Head of Government or Prime Minister; The Right Honourable Paul Martin is the current and twentieth-first Prime Minister.

Get detailed information about the history and function of Parliament. Learn more about the office of the Prime Minister or role of the Governor General.

National Emblem

Historically, Canada's most important national emblem has been the maple leaf. The maple leaf, in variant forms and colours, has appeared on the penny, Canadian coats of arms and regimental banners. In 1965 the maple leaf became the central design on the Canadian national flag. The red maple leaf is recognized world-wide as a Canadian symbol.

Visit the Canadian Heritage Web site for more details about the national flag.

The Canadian Heritage Web site offers detailed information about other Canadian Symbols.

National Anthem of Canada

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love
in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts
we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land
glorious and free!
O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada,
we stand on guard for thee.

French Version

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Culture and Language

Canada's culture and official language policy are features that are unique to Canada. To learn more about culture, languages, education, communications and economy in Canada, take a look at the Canadian profile on the Canadian Heritage Web site.

Geography and Climate:

Canada's climate varies throughout the country. Each region experiences variable temperature and precipitation levels, although most of Canada experiences four distinct seasons.

*Spring — Average temperature = 15 degrees Celsius

*Summer — Average temperature = 25 degrees Celsius

*Fall — Average temperature = 15 degrees Celsius

*Winter — Average temperature = -25 degrees Celsius

Like its climate, Canada has a diverse geography that varies regionally. Canada encompasses several geographical elements - from Arctic tundra in the north, lush rain forests in the west, the Prairie wheat fields in central Canada, to the rugged coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific provinces.

Canada has several distinct geographic and climatic regions:

The Pacific or West Coast — enjoys Canada's most favourable climate. The warm Pacific Ocean air produces a temperate rain forest climate. The winters, although mild, include significant precipitation - particularly in southern British Columbia. The northern and interior regions, however, experience heavy snowfall.

The Cordillera or Cordilleran mountain range, extends from British Columbia to Alberta and as far north as the Yukon. The Cordillera include the Coastal Range, the Rockies and St. Elias Mountains.

The Prairies — encompass the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta from east to west. The Prairies, considered world leaders in grain production, are famous for their seemingly endless fields of grain.

Prairie summers are hot and dry with little precipitation. Levels of precipitation vary somewhat across the region however, with annual rates ranging from 300 to 500 mm. The "chinook" winds of the Prairies counteract the long, cold winters producing milder temperatures, sometimes as much as 20 degrees in a matter of hours.

The Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Region — is home to half of Canada's population. Summer temperatures average 20 degrees Celsius, but may feel considerably warmer with the humidity. Winters in this region are typically cold with heavy snowfall.

This area has some of the best agricultural land in Canada. It is suitable for growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. The Niagara Peninsula region produces several quality wines. Maple syrup and sugar are other products of the Great Lakes region.

The Atlantic or Maritime Region — experiences high levels of precipitation throughout the year due to the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. The winters are characteristically cold with heavy periods of snowfall. During the summer temperatures may range from 16 to 18 degrees Celsius. Fog is prevalent in some Atlantic areas, particularly in the spring and summer.

The North or Arctic Regions — is blanketed in snow much of the year. A northern summer consists of four months of perpetual sunlight with temperatures reaching 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, in the arctic and sub-arctic respectively. The summer permafrost allows for the growth of vegetative life. The long, cold winters, with very few hours of daylight, are brightened by The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.

For more information about the Canadian climate, visit the Environment Canada Web site.

Like many large countries, Canada has several time zones. Canada uses six Standard Time Zones and observes Daylight Savings Time in every province but Saskatchewan.


National Parks and National Historic Sites:

In 1885, the Canadian government established the first national park in Banff, Alberta. Today, there are more than forty National Parks that occupy approximately 2 percent of Canada's total landmass. Canada's National Park system is monitored and protected by Parks Canada. All levels of government recognize the urgency of preserving the ecological integrity of Canada's parks for generations to come.

In addition, Parks Canada and Canadian Heritage strive to commemorate the people, places and events of national historic significance. Canada has designated more than 800 National Historic Sites throughout the country. These sites represent the variety of Canada's unique history, culture and people.

Canada is also home to thirteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Countries worldwide share the responsibility of preserving sites of ecological or biological universal importance.

          Senate health care bill vote delayed   

WASHINGTON — Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) yesterday withdrew a planned vote on the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. McConnell delayed action on the measure after it became apparent that Republicans lacked the votes to approve their version of legislation passed by the House in May. While he had

The post Senate health care bill vote delayed appeared first on CDR – Chain Drug Review.


          Hospital Official Waits To See When Senate Votes On GOP Health Bill   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: What do Senate Republicans do now? They intended to vote this week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. They didn't have enough votes to pass their version. So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will wait. And he issued a warning to his colleagues. They might, if they don't get their act together, have to compromise. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) MITCH MCCONNELL: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo or the markets will continue to collapse and we'll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make, both on the market side and the Medicaid side. INSKEEP: We are hearing many people with a stake in the outcome of this legislative fight, including Dr. Rod Hochman, who's on the line. He's the CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, which has hospitals in seven states,
          The GOP Factional Split On Health Care   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is giving up on trying to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act before July Fourth. But he says he is not giving up. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) MITCH MCCONNELL: We will not be on the bill this week, but we're still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place. INSKEEP: That's what McConnell needs and currently does not have to pass legislation. Those following this with great interest include Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union - is in our studios. Thanks for coming by. MATT SCHLAPP: Great to be here. INSKEEP: Good morning. What happens politically to Republicans if nothing passes? SCHLAPP: I think it's a big problem. When you go around the country for seven years saying that Obamacare is an abomination, you talk about all of its deficiencies, you say that there are Republican solutions to the health care problems we have in this
          More Time Is Needed To Study Health Bill, Sen. Johnson Says   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: The Senate version of the Republican health care bill is still expected to head for a vote later this week, even though opposition to it within the Republican Party itself is growing. Much of that concern has come in response to news of the score from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO estimates that under the bill, 22 million more Americans would be uninsured by the year 2026. Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins has already declared she will vote against the bill in its current form. Here she is on ABC News. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) SUSAN COLLINS: I'm very concerned about the cost of insurance for older people with serious chronic illnesses and the impact of the Medicaid cuts on our state governments, the most vulnerable people in our society and health care providers. MARTIN: The bill can only afford to lose one more GOP lawmaker and still pass. But on the right, several conservative Republicans are also
          Name Of New York City Bridge Has Been Misspelled For Decades    
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Good morning. I'm Rachel Martin with a question - what's in a name? Apparently, two Z's. For more than 50 years, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City has been misspelled. The bridge was named after the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano - two Z's - who discovered New York Harbor in 1524. Somewhere along the way, a Z got dropped. A college student started a petition to correct the spelling, and now the state Senate has passed a bill that would restore the name of the bridge to its full double-Z glory. It's MORNING EDITION. No Z's. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
          Enrollees Who Work Still Need Medicaid, Kaiser Survey Shows   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Over the weekend, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway defended cuts to Medicaid that are outlined in the Senate Republican health care bill. She was on ABC's "This Week," and she said that Medicaid enrollees who are, quote, "able bodied" should be able to find jobs and get health care through their employers. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) KELLYANNE CONWAY: If they're able-bodied and they want to work, then they'll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Kellyanne, hold... MARTIN: So this isn't exactly a new argument, but Diane Rowland of the Kaiser Family Foundation says there are big holes in it, mainly this one. DIANE ROWLAND: Well, we know that many of the people on Medicaid are already working, many of the adults who are able to go out and get a job, if they can. But we also know that those jobs often do not come with health insurance benefits. And these are very low-income people
          Morning News Brief For June 28, 2017   

As you start your day, it can be overwhelming to try to make sense of everything you missed while you were getting on with your life. Morning Minute is here to bring you the news you need to know to start your day, all broken down into tidbits you can consume before you finish your morning constitution. Here are this morning's headlines.

The Senate Healthcare Bill Is In Shambles

After angering se...


          Calif. Legislation to Repeal Anti-Immigrant Provisions in Prop. 187 Passes Senate Committee – AB 222   

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ -- The Calif. Senate Public Safety Committee voted 5-2 to repeal anti-immigrant sections of the California Penal Code, enacted in 1994 as part of Proposition 187 to fight the perceived ills of illegal immigration and unfairly punish undocumented immigrants in California. Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra’s (D-Pacoima) AB 222 would place a measure on the 2020 ballot that would ask voters to bring equity to California’s criminal justice laws by ensuring the use and manufacturing of a false immigration documents carries the same penalties for the use and production of a fake driver’s license.

The news story Calif. Legislation to Repeal Anti-Immigrant Provisions in Prop. 187 Passes Senate Committee – AB 222 appeared on and is Copr. © California Newswire®, a publication of NEOTROPE®, USA. - California Newswire. - CLICK LINK TO VIEW FULL TEXT OF STORY.


          Senate health care bill negotiations: These are the big issues on the table   
A provision that makes one person happy could bleed votes on the other side.
      
 
 

          Fact check: Spinning the CBO insurance estimate   
CBO projects Senate bill would increase number of uninsured Americans by 22 million in 2026 — a figure that both sides in the debate are distorting.
      
 
 

          Senator Ellis and Mayor Turner   
Senator Rodney Ellis was elected to the Texas Senate in 1990. During his tenure, he...
          Will E.U. Court's Privacy Ruling Break the Internet?   

In 2012, a bevy of internet companies and web sites waged a successful campaign against bills in Congress -- the PROTECT IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) --  meant to combat copyright privacy. In the face of this opposition, the proposals were dropped (although their legacy survives). One of the major claims by the opponents was that the bills would "break the Internet" by requiring the disabling of URLs and removal of online links to sites that include unauthorized uses of copyrighted materials (although not all agreed with this assessment).

Now, the European Court of Justice has issued a decision (summary) that could require search engines to remove links to online information about individuals that is "no longer necessary in the light of the purposes for which they were collected or processed." The court's decision does not discuss how the removal of these links should be accomplished.

The court's decision stemmed from a case brought by Spanish citizen Mario Costeja González, seeking removal from a newspaper's web site images of pages from January and March 1998 that included announcements for a real estate auction stemming from attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Costeja González. He complained to Spain's Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (Spanish Data Protection Agency; AEPD) (Spanish site; English resources), seeking removal of the information from the paper's website and from Google's search results.

AEPD held that the newspaper need not remove the material, since it published it under a legal directive. But it upheld the complaint against Google, saying that Costeja González had the right to shield the information from public view via the search engine. Google appealed to Spain's Audiencia Nacional (National High Court). That court sought an advisory opinion from the European Court of Justice -- the highest court in the European Union -- regarding the applicability of EU privacy laws to the case.

European law embodies a concept of privacy that is in many ways alien to American law, and would be unconstitutional under our First Amendment. This includes a right to bar or recover for publication of true but "private" information that is readily available publicly, and a right to shield dated information, often referred to as a "right to be forgotten."

The question before the court was whether the EU directive embodying these notions (Directive 95/46) applied to Google. This, in turn, depended on whether Google could be considered a content provider. The court held that it was, even though the information that Google collects and displays in its search results is already published online by someone else. Since Google is a content provider, the court held, it is obliged to follow the privacy directive.

Inasmuch as the activity of a search engine is therefore liable to affect significantly, and additionally compared with that of the publishers of websites, the fundamental rights to privacy and to the protection of personal data, the operator of the search engine as the person determining the purposes and means of that activity must ensure, within the framework of its responsibilities, powers and capabilities, that the activity meets the requirements of Directive 95/46 in order that the guarantees laid down by the directive may have full effect and that effective and complete protection of data subjects, in particular of their right to privacy, may actually be achieved.

Google Spain SL v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Case C‑131/12 (E.C.R. May 13, 2014), para. 38.

The court also ruled that Google was subject to Spain's jurisdiction, including its law applying Directive 95/46, because of Google's web site directed at the country (www.google.es). The court rejected Google's argument that it was Google, Inc., in the United States that performed the indexing and search functions at issue, rather than the Spanish subsidiary: "Since that display of results is accompanied, on the same page, by the display of advertising linked to the search terms, it is clear that the processing of personal data in question is carried out in the context of the commercial and advertising activity of the controller’s establishment on the territory of a Member State, in this instance Spanish territory." Id., para. 57.

After finding that the directive applies to Google, the court held that the search engine could be ordered to remove links to the objectionable material from search results for Costeja González's name.

[I]n order to comply with the rights laid down in those provisions and in so far as the conditions laid down by those provisions are in fact satisfied, the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, published by third parties and containing information relating to that person, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful.

Id., para. 88.

The irony -- expressed in the last sentence above -- is that the court also observed that the newspaper that posted the notices of the auctions in the first place could not be required to remove those postings because they were published "solely for journalistic purposes," which is included within "the right to receive and impart information" guaranteed in Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and referenced in the directive.

The court justified the different treatment of the newspaper and Google by staing that "first, the legitimate interests justifying the processing may be different [for the newspaper and the search engine] and, second, the consequences of the processing for the data subject, and in particular for his private life, are not necessarily the same." Id., para. 86.

Indeed, since the inclusion in the list of results, displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, of a web page and of the information contained on it relating to that person makes access to that information appreciably easier for any internet user making a search in respect of the person concerned and may play a decisive role in the dissemination of that information, it is liable to constitute a more significant interference with the data subject’s fundamental right to privacy than the publication on the web page.

Id., para. 87 (emphasis added).

The court acknowledges that these "rights override ..., not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in finding that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name. "  Id., para. 97. The court adds that this may not be true in the case of a promient person in public life, which may mean that the public interest in disclosure would outweigh that person's right to privacy.

But since Costeja González is not a public person, he may request removal of the articles from Google's search results even though he cannot request removal of the same articles from the newspaper's website. Again, this would not be the case under United States law, regardless of the plaintiff's status as a private or public figure. In the U.S., privacy law generally does not provide a remedy for the dissemination of true information that is already publicly available; moreover, the compelled removal of such information would raise serious issues under the First Amendment as prior restraints on speech.

The case now returns to the Spanish Audiencia Nacional for a specific decision in Costeja González's case, which can be appealed to Spain's Supreme Court. But the EU court's decision is binding on member states of the European Union, and could lead to more efforts by Europeans to have embarrassing or other material removed from web search results, even when the original site containing the material has no obligation to remove it.

Google has stated that it is "analys[ing] the implications" of the ECJ ruling, but requiring the modification of search results in response to what will likely be a flood of complaints from residents of EU countries puts Google in the difficult (if not impossible) position of either managing these complaints at significant cost or taking a blunderbuss approach to removal of content. And would such results persist outside the EU? Content filtering by country is not a new concept, but this ruling has the potential to create a dramatically different Internet in Europe.

There could also be a significant impact on the news organizations that, as the ECJ acknowledges, have the right to publish this information. The ECJ, in its ad hoc balancing of interests, seems blind to the fact that news organizations depend on search engines and other online intermediaries in order to reach their audiences. Allowing the subjects of news coverage to use these intermediaries as a choke point because the intermediaries are not themselves journalists threatens the primary benefit of the Internet -- namely, the networked dissemination of information.

Operating on the Internet has always posed challenges in complying with the laws of multiple countries. Search engines in particular have had problems in the past dealing with Great Britain's privacy laws, France's laws against Nazi memorabilia, and China's web restrictions. But this ruling by the European Court of Justice might just be the straw that breaks the camel's -- or the Internet's -- back.

Eric P. Robinson is co-director of the Program in Press, Law and Democracy at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. He has taught media law and ethics at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Baruch College, and the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was also Deputy Director of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Courts and Media. He has also been a  staff attorney at the Media Law Resource Center and a legal fellow at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. In addition to his posts here, he maintains his own blog at bloglawonline.com.

(Image courtesy of Flickr user The.Rohit pursuant to a Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 license.)

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 


          Montesquieu, Come Back! (The French Police Already Know Where You Are)   

On December 19, 2013, the French Loi de Programmation Militaire (the Military Program law, or "LPM"), was enacted. Article 20 of the LPM, which will come into force on January 1, 2015, authorizes the government to require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and web hosts to provide "information and documents processed or stored," including geolocation data and metadata in real time, without having to first ask for an authorization from a judge. The new law raises serious questions regarding separation of powers and the extent of administrative authority in France.

A Surveillance Law Both Broad and Vague

Article 20 of the LPM allows the Prime Minister to authorize specially designated agents from the ministers of police, defense, economics and budget to issue demands to ISPs for:

"information or documents processed or preserved by their networks or electronic communications services, including technical data relating to the identification subscription or connection to electronic communications service numbers, identification of all the numbers subscription or connection to a designated person, the location of the terminal equipment used as well as a subscriber's communications on the list of dialed numbers and callers, duration and timing of communications"

The Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), France's data protection authority, issued a statement following the enactment of the LPM noting that "information and documents" was so vague a term that "it appears to allow intelligence services to have access to content data, not only connection data." Ironically, the law was purportedly enacted to make surveillance laws more precise, following a 2010 European Court of Human Rights decision, Uzun v. Germany, where the court had warned Member States that "[i]n view of the risk of abuse intrinsic to any system of secret surveillance, such measures must be based on a law that is particularly precise, especially as the technology available for use is continually becoming more sophisticated" (at 61).  

A Not-So-Precise Geolocation Surveillance Law

So how did a law purportedly intended to clarify the use of surveillance technology wind up with such foggy language? When the LPM was first presented to the French Senate in August 2013, the explanatory memorandum about the section that would become article 20 presented it exclusively as an anti-terrorism measure. The memorandum indicated that the section would authorize police in charge of preventing terrorism to access geolocation information and communications metadata in real time. The new provisions were originally intended to become part of a 2006 anti-terrorism law that is currently set to lapse the last day of 2015, and would be limited by the scope of the 2006 law.

But then came the sleight of hand. Senator Jean-Pierre Sueur argued that article 20 of the LPM should not become part of the 2006 law, but instead should become part of an updated general administrative communications interception law. "If geolocation is inserted in Article L.34-1-1, it is confined to anti-terrorist purposes, even though the intelligence services might need it for much broader purposes," explained Senator Sueur. In fact, the senator quoted the ECHR's decision in Uzun to justify this expansion of administrative authority, noting that the Court had found that using a geolocation device "could be acceptable under the right to privacy guaranteed by Article 8 § 1 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, provided that the law is very specific in its description of the device" (p.47).

Sueur's argument succeeded, and article 20 of the LPM became articles L. 241-1 et seq. of France's Homeland Security Code -- an entirely new chapter VI broadly named “Administrative access to data connection.”

So Much for the Judiciary

The main problem with Senator Sueur’s invocation of Uzun was that he conveniently forgot to mention that Uzun involved authorization by a German judge, not the administration, for police to place the GPS device at issue in that case.

In Uzun, a German prosecutor had placed Bernhard Uzun and "S.," one of his presumed accomplices, under surveillance, as they were suspected to have participated in bombing attacks carried out by a terrorist organization. The police had placed a GPS device in S.'s car and monitored Uzun and S.'s whereabouts for three months until their arrest. Uzun was subsequently found guilty of having carried out a bomb attack and, on appeal to the ECHR, argued that using a GPS device as a surveillance tool had been an unjustified breach of his privacy, as protected by article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. But the ECHR held unanimously that there had been no violation, as installing the GPS device had been done in accordance with the law, to pursue the legitimate goal of protecting public safety, and had been a proportionate measure to accomplish this goal. 

The fact that Uzun involved judicially authorized surveillance is critical. French law explicitly separates administrative police power, which is exercised preventatively to limit crime and maintain public order, from judicial police power, which is exercised to enforce law and investigate crime. The administrative police power is under the control of the administrative/executive authority, while the judicial police power is under the control of the judicial authority. Only the judicial authority is deemed to be the “guardian of individual freedom” by article 66 of the French Constitution.

So while the ECHR in Uzun had unanimously found no violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights protecting privacy, it was considering an exercise of judicial police power under the oversight of a judge in the active investigation of a terrorism suspect. It was not a case about administrative police power.

The French Conseil Constitutionnel (Constitutional Council), which is in charge of reviewing the constitutionality of laws, had found in 2006 that it is also permissible for administrative police officers to have access to stored electronic communication data without a warrant, but only when acting to prevent acts of terrorism. The LPM, however, contains no such limitation in its text and, once placed in the Homeland Security Code instead of the 2006 terrorism law, lost any limitation that could have been drawn from context.

The New Process: Collecting Geolocation and Metadata in Real Time Without a Warrant

So now the LPM authorizes the collection of geolocation and metadata in real time without a judicial warrant and not only for terrorist crimes. This is how it works: under the new article L. 246-3 of the Homeland Security Code, the ministers of homeland security, of defense, of economy, and of budget may ask for authorization to have access in real time to the "information and documents" subject to the LPM (the definition of which now appears in article L. 246-1 of the Code). The authorization is not granted by a judge, but by the Prime Minister (who heads the government under article 21 of the French Constitution). The authorization may be granted initially for a maximum time of thirty days, but can be renewed for the same amount of time.

The Prime Minister‘s decision is communicated within forty-eight hours to the President of the Commission Nationale de Contrôle des Interceptions de Sécurité (the National Commission to Control Security Interceptions, or "CNCIS"). The CNCIS was created by a July 10, 1991 law, following the European Court of Justice's condemnation of France in 1990 in two cases, Kruslin v. France and Huvig v. France. These cases noted France's lack of a precise communication surveillance law, holding that since "[t]apping and other forms of interception of telephone conversations represent a serious interference with private life and correspondence [they]... must accordingly be based on a 'law‘ that is particularly precise. It is essential to have clear, detailed rules on the subject, especially as the technology available for use is continually becoming more sophisticated" (Kruslin at 33).

If the President of CNCIS does not believe the legality of the Prime Minister's authorization is "certain," he is to meet with the whole CNCIS, which must make a decision about the legality of such authorization within seven days.

But even forty-eight hours, and possibly seven days more, is quite a long time for potentially illegal surveillance to take place. Also, the control is only a posteriori and is only made by the CNCIS, which is an independent administrative authority, not a judicial authority. Geolocation and metadata surveillance in real time are thus left entirely in the hands of administrative authorities with no judicial oversight.

Is it Constitutional?

This new scheme seems unlikely to fare well with France's Supreme Civil Court, the Cour de Cassation. The day the Senate bill was sent to the Assemblée Nationale, France's lower chamber, the Cour de Cassation ruled in two geolocation cases. The court quoted, in full, article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, and concluded that "geolocation technology constitutes an interference with privacy of such gravity that this requires it to be executed under the supervision of a judge."

Therefore, there is a real chance that the LPM will eventually be declared unconstitutional. In fact, opponents to the LPM tried to have the law found unconstitutional by the Conseil Constitutionnel before its enactment, but could not gather the signatures of sixty Representatives or sixty Senators necessary to petition the Conseil Constitutionnel. The LPM may now only be declared unconstitutional if a party to a lawsuit argues that the LPM infringes on her rights and freedoms as guaranteed by the Constitution. If the conditions of admissibility would be met, the Cour de Cassation would refer the question of constitutionality of the LPM to the Conseil Constitutionnel, which could then repeal the law. 

Conclusion

Even though the LPM had been presented as the law which would put France in compliance with Uzun, Christine Taubira, the Minister of Justice, announced on December 23 that the government had presented another geolocation surveillance law to the Senate intended "to bring French law into conformity with the requirements laid down by the European Court of Human Rights in its Uzun v. Germany judgment ... and the October 22, 2013 decisions of the Court of Cassation."

The French Senate adopted this bill on January 20, and it will be debated at the lower Assembly next month. It adds a new article to the French criminal procedure code which would authorize the police to put in place geolocation surveillance without requesting a warrant, if investigating a crime punishable by at least five years imprisonment, or at least three years imprisonment for crimes against property.  

Hopefully, the new bill will give France another chance to publicly debate whether it is advisable for a democracy to authorize real time surveillance without judicial oversight. For now, it is hard to believe that France was the home of Montesquieu, who famously wrote in The Spirit of the Laws about the tripartite separation of powers: legislative, judicial and executive.

Marie-Andrée Weiss is a solo attorney admitted in New York, and her admission is pending in France. Her practice focuses on intellectual property, privacy, and social media law. She frequently writes on these topics and on European Union law. 

(Image of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu on 1989 200-franc note courtesy of Flickr user Drew XXX pursuant to a Creative Commons

          The Senate healthcare bill could result in a 'nightmare scenario' for drugs   

Peter Orszag

Washington might have just solved the problem of high drug prices. But the road to that would be incredibly painful.

It's an argument laid out in an unsettling column for Bloomberg by former Office of Management and Budget head Peter Orszag titled, "One Nightmare Scenario in Senate Bill: Drug Rationing."

"Senate Republicans may not realize it, but their repeal-and-replace health-care legislation, if passed, would set the U.S. on the road to European-style price controls and rationing of prescription medications. This would follow fairly directly from the enormous cuts to Medicaid that the bill would impose," he writes.

To be clear, Orszag isn't writing this because he thinks it's a merit of the bill that's aimed at repealing Obamacare. It's an unintended consequence, he says, and Orszag is one of President' Barack Obama's guys. 

But the scenario he lays out is fairly simple: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Federal spending on Medicare will fall by 25% by 2026 under this bill. After that Federal health care funding to states would increase at the rate of inflation, which is an estimated 2% less than the rate of healthcare cost inflation.

You can see how this problem could start to run away from state governments, especially those already suffering from budget constraints.

So Orszag, who now the global co-head of healthcare at investment bank Lazard, thinks that states will have to go into emergency mode, pulling back on big costs like prescription meds. After all, according to the Center for Sustainable Rx Pricing, prescription drugs now make up almost 20% of healthcare costs.

This would hit drug companies and patients subject to drug rationing alike. 

For more on this, read Orszag's full column>> 

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Science says lasting relationships come down to 3 basic traits


          Comment on How The Religious Right Came To Love Russia And Fascism by Porn Declared Public Health Crisis in Tennessee   
[…] Religious Right has won another round, with the Tennessee Senate passing a resolution declaring pornography a […]
          Lawmakers Warn Senate Health Care Bill Could Worsen Opioid Crisis   
Some senators are concerned about how the Senate Republicans health care bill would affect treatment for opioid addiction.
          55 Percent Of Americans Disapprove Of Senate Health Care Bill   
A new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll shows President Trump's approval ratings below 40 percent and approval of the GOP health care proposal in the teens. This toxic environment makes it even tougher for Republicans to forge a deal to meet their twin goals of repealing the Affordable Care Act and making affordable care more accessible.
          Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf Steps Down   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Wells Fargo has been under pressure for weeks now ever since federal regulators ordered the bank to pay a $185 million fine. Wells Fargo admitted to opening up some 2 million accounts in customers names without their knowledge, and it fired low-level employees as a result. But at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told the bank's CEO that was not enough. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) ELIZABETH WARREN: And when it all blew up, you kept your job. You kept your multimillion dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees who were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich. CORNISH: Warren told the CEO, John Stumpf, he should resign. Well, now he's informed the bank's board he's retiring effective immediately. Joining us to discuss this latest turn is NPR's Chris Arnold. And, Chris, to start, why now? CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Well, the
          Republican Healthcare Bill Contains $50 Billion Insurer Bailout   
The Senate Republican healthcare bill contains a $50 billion slush fund for insurance companies that the CMS Administrator gets to dole out. Maybe this is the equivalent of a "surge" in a war to protect healthcare markets, but standardless delegation and corporate welfare is not the answer.
          CBO Predictions About The Senate Health Care Bill Are Deeply Flawed   
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office published its estimate of the Senate GOP health care bill. Democrats are trumpeting the claim that under the bill, 22 million fewer people will have coverage than under Obamacare in 2026. But the CBO’s estimates are deeply flawed.
          Tax Cuts In Republican Senate Health Bill Undercut Its Best Justification   
Senate Republicans would have a stronger case for their healthcare bill if they could plausibly argue that, yes, it may cover fewer, but it is something the federal government can actually afford. By simultaneously cutting taxes for the wealthy, however, Republicans undercut that justification.
          How Would The Senate Discussion Draft Affect Individually-Purchased Health Coverage?   
The Senate health care "discussion draft" has some good points, but doesn't really solve the problem. Here are some suggestions for improvement.
          Republican Senate Healthcare Bill Creates Scary Marginal Tax Rates   
The new healthcare reform bill from Senate Republicans imposes extremely high marginal tax rates on many Americans. And that's not an unintended bug, it's actually a feature. Explore here just how bad the situation is.
          The New Senate Republican Bill Will Transform American Health Care   
The hotly-anticipated Senate Republican health care bill came out on Thursday morning. The airwaves quickly filled up with predictable talking points from both sides. But once the dust settles, it will emerge that the Senate bill will have far-reaching effects on American health care.
          The Right Way For GOP Senators To Replace Obamacare's Tax Credits   
House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement would price millions out of the health insurance market. Senate Republicans have vowed to fix this problem. Their success in doing so will hinge on exactly how they replace Obamacare’s tax credits for the uninsured.
          If The Senate Doesn't Fix The House's Obamacare Replacement, The GOP Will Pay A Steep Price   
Earlier today, House Republicans passed their replacement of Obamacare. The bill contains many important reforms, but it risks throwing millions of low-income Americans off of their health insurance plans. Senate Republicans can fix this—but only if they prioritize sound health care policy.
          It's Time For The Senate To Get To Work On Replacing Obamacare, With Or Without The House   
Republicans don’t have an infinite amount of time to wait for the House to get its act together. GOP Senators should start laying the groundwork—now—for their own health reform efforts.
          Could A New Obamacare Replacement Allow Health Insurance Sales Across State Lines?   
As House Republicans discuss how to reboot their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Trump’s favorite idea has been curiously absent: buying insurance across state lines. But a new approach to replacing Obamacare could make it easier for the GOP to enact this idea under Senate rules.
          Trump Treasury Nominee Defends Profiting From Foreclosure Crisis   
In a tense hearing Thursday morning, the new administration's Treasury secretary nominee, Steven Mnuchin, faced scrutiny from Democratic senators concerned about him profiting handsomely off homeowners who lost their homes during the housing crisis. Mnuchin, whose career includes a 17-year stint at Goldman Sachs and Hollywood movie production, got early praise from Republicans. But stiff questioning followed from Democrats for his role as CEO of a company that took over IndyMac Bank, now known as OneWest, which failed because of its bad home loans and later pushed through many controversial foreclosures, ultimately yielding massive profits for Mnuchin. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Finance, called his practices "predatory," saying the bank foreclosed on 35,000 homeowners. "While Mr. Mnuchin was CEO, the bank proved it could put more people on the street faster than just about anybody else around," Wyden said in his opening statement, referring
          1623 - The Republicans Plan B & C to Destroy Health Care & Cut Taxes For Wealthy   

The Republicans continue to pursue destroying health care. The Republican timeline of attempting to destroy health care. How Republicans ran to the left of Obamacare. The side deals Republicans will cut in the Senate. The next phase of Republican plans to destroy the social safety net. How Obama undermined Obamacare. Mitch McConnell is angry at Donald Trump's stupidity. Republican Congressman Francis Rooney, also has no idea what his job is and Al Franken humiliates Rick Perry.

On The Fun Half: Donald Trump's fake Time cover. Trump acts creepy. Reporter calls out Sarah Huckabee for demonizing the press. Ivanka whines and complains on Fox & Friends. Sarah Palin sues the New York Times and your calls and IMs.


          Fox News Poll: 27 percent favor Senate GOP health care plan, as vote gets delayed   
By two-to-one, American voters oppose the Senate health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act -- even as a majority wants to repeal at least some of the existing law.
          CBO score of Senate health care bill: What does it mean?   
The Congressional Budget Office released its cost estimate for the Senate’s ObamaCare replacement plan on Monday.
          Cyber Attacks and the Fallout from Trump’s Russian Tête-à-Tête: This Week in the News   

In what turned out to be an uncannily well-timed post last week, I blogged about my testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on the need for cyber policy, strategy and organization. The next day, world governments were hit by a truly global cyberattack, the likes of which we’ve not previously seen.

[...]
          Senate healthcare bill: the healthtech community speaks out   
A vote on the bill has now been delayed in order to get conservative Republicans on board

There are few issues more contentious in our politics than healthcare, and for good reason. It represents literal life and death for millions of people, and they rightfully get scared when anyone tries to change it. Right now, the Republicans in the Senate are looking to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which is basically an updated version of the American Healthcare ... [Read more]

          Governor LePage Supports Effort to Repeal and Replace ObamaCare   
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 28, 2017 Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA -Governor Paul R. LePage issued a statement today about Republican efforts in Washington. D.C. to enact meaningful health care reform.

"I fully support the President's efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare, which has been disastrous for our nation, with real reform that lowers costs and provides the American people with high-quality health care," Governor LePage said. "If the Senate's version of the health care bill includes a couple of improvements, I would be glad to endorse it. First, Medicaid expansion should be frozen. If states have not already expanded Medicaid, they should not be allowed to. As Maine's experience has already proven, Medicaid expansion is ruinous to a state's fiscal health. Second, invisible risk pools must be included as a way to reduce premiums and increase access to health insurance. This reform has the potential to drive affordable health insurance for the entire nation."

Governor LePage met this morning with U.S. Senator Susan Collins in Washington, D.C. to discuss his concerns with the Senate's proposal for health care reform. His concerns are outlined in the attached letter to Senator Collins. The Governor also sent a letter to Senator Angus King.

"Rather than seeking a starring role in Washington's latest hyper-partisan drama, Senator King should focus his efforts on doing what is right for the Maine people he was elected to represent," said Governor LePage. "So-called ‘scandals' concocted by Washington politicians come and go, but reforming health care is vital for the lifelong health and well-being of Mainers."
          The Battle Over American Health Care: What's At Stake In The Senate's Bill   
Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross, who's off this week. Nearly six months into the Trump administration, the nation is once again embroiled in a debate about health care as Senate Republicans seek to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. After weeks of crafting the bill behind closed doors, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to corral 50 Republican senators to vote for it. It's proving difficult in part because an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found it would lead to millions more uninsured Americans and require many more to pay for their health care. Some conservatives don't like the bill because it leaves much of the structure of the Affordable Care Act in place. So far, McConnell doesn't have the votes to move the bill to the Senate floor for consideration. He'd hoped to have a final vote on the bill before the July Fourth recess but
          Gorsuch is already pushing the Supreme Court right on religion, guns and gay rights   

When Judge Neil M. Gorsuch went before the Senate in March as President Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, he sought to assure senators he would be independent and above the political fray.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democratic judge,” he said more than once. “We...


          Resistance Reporting Finds Hundreds of Protests in May, Most of Them Staunchly Anti-Trump   
With a decrease in attendance at anti-Trump demonstrations from April to May, does the resistance have enough fuel?

Protests and rallies against the Trump administration and its policies have been a constant since January, as hundreds and sometimes thousands of people gathering to protest a bevy of issues.

New data from the Washington Post "tallied 495 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States" in May, with attendance numbering between 100,807 and 128,464. The number of protests and the number of participants in May show a marked decrease from April, when 950 protests drew roughly between 637,198 and 1,181,887 people. Data about demonstrations in the U.S. is collected by the Crowd Counting Consortium, with updates posted on the Washington Post every month.

A majority of the rallies and demonstrations, about 68 percent, were in opposition to Trump’s policies, with 54.5 percent boasting anti-Trump messages and 13.5 percent taking stances on “issues that contradict the president.” A large number of the protests centered around the House Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, including a protest outside a town hall meeting in Plattsburgh, New York, with Rep. Elise Stefanik. There were also a number of protests that, while not explicitly anti-Trump, defended an issue stance contrary to the president’s beliefs. Some of these events included support for workers, protests against police violence and a Take Back the Night march addressing sexual violence.

Only 5 percent of the recorded events supported Trump and his policies—a slight increase from only 2 percent of pro-Trump rallies in April. One of the rallies occurred during Trump’s commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut.

Furthermore, 27 percent of demonstrators participated in marches and actions targeting other politicians or issues that were neither anti-Trump nor pro-Trump, showing an increase from April. Protesters rallied against the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, and demonstrators in Alamogordo, New Mexico, protested a deep borehole research project. The data also notes that protests over budgetary and personnel decisions in grade schools remained common.

At 465 recorded events in May, no arrests were made. However, the number of people arrested increased from 160 in April to 349 in May. The data shows that 259 of the May arrests stemmed from 19 cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. During a protest at a legislative committee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 23 people were arrested. Only six events with arrests were a result of violence or the destruction of property.

study from the University of Maryland revealed the demographics of the anti-Trump resistance. The data found that about one-third of participants at the Women’s March in January were new activists and had never participated in protest action before. Furthermore, these first-time protesters ended up repeatedly participating in rallies and demonstrations, as 45 percent of March for Science participants and 70 percent of People’s Climate March participants (both taking place in April) also had joined in the Women’s March.

The data also showcased racial diversity among protesters, with nearly a quarter of respondents being non-white. A majority of respondents were also Democrats and had voted for Hillary Clinton for president, although the resistance was also drawing in third-party voters.

While Crowd Counting Consortium’s numbers for June have not been released yet, this month has seen a number of protests, including Pride marches across the U.S. A majority of these rallies have focused on the Senate’s health care bill, and many marches have taken place to protest police brutality since Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

    

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          ZOFFINGER APPOINTED   
The New Jersey State Senate approved the appointment of George R. Zoffinger, chairman of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, to serve on the Rutgers board of governors. Mr. Zoffinger was nominated by former Governor McGreevey in Octobe...
          Senate Should Reject NATO Membership For Montenegro   
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          APNewsBreak: Icahn says Taj casino likely to close   

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn says the struggling Trump Taj Mahal casino "will almost certainly close."

The would-be purchaser of the casino told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the casino's finances are dire.

Four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos have closed this year, and the Taj Mahal would be the fifth.

Icahn, sounding very much like a man growing tired of the whole topic, said that even though he won't back out of a deal he made with owner Trump Entertainment Resorts to acquire the Taj Mahal and pump $100 million into it, he wishes he never answered the phone when the company first called him about it.

"One overriding fact is perfectly clear: The Taj is quickly running out of money and will almost certainly close," Icahn told the AP. "Reprehensibly, the union, instead of working with, and trying to help, the company to keep the Taj alive, is instead doing everything to destroy the possibility of saving the jobs of over 3,000 employees. I will not walk away from what I agreed to with the company, but I must admit I wish I never took their phone call."

Union members said they will picket outside the casino on Friday night to protest a court-ordered termination of employees' health care and pension plans.

Trump Entertainment has declined to comment. It had threatened to close the Taj Mahal on Nov. 13 if it didn't get a judge to free it from making health care and pension payments for the casino's 3,000 workers. The company now promises to keep the casino open at least through November.

Trump Entertainment Resorts acknowledges its finances are dire but says it is doing everything it can to preserve the casino and the jobs. It previously warned it was in danger of running out of money in early December, before it got a bankruptcy court judge to cancel its contract with Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino workers' union.

Icahn said he was approached by Trump Entertainment about canceling the $286 million in company debt he owns and converting that into ownership of the Taj Mahal. The plan involves him investing $100 million into the casino but only if the union contract is canceled and if the state contributes $175 million in aid — a request already rejected by state Senate President Steve Sweeney. An earlier plan, since dropped, also called on Atlantic City to grant large tax breaks to the company.

Icahn said he had "walked into a hornet's nest here."

"Frankly, several of my advisers have told me that if the city and the state did not come up with the money, they'd be doing me a large favor," Icahn said. "Even if we get the concessions from the city and the state, we're going to lose a lot of money. Everybody thinks I'm trying very hard to do this. I'm not."

___

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC


          APNewsBreak: Icahn says Taj casino likely to close   

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn says the struggling Trump Taj Mahal casino "will almost certainly close."

The would-be purchaser of the casino told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the casino's finances are dire.

Four of Atlantic City's 12 casinos have closed this year, and the Taj Mahal would be the fifth.

Icahn, sounding very much like a man growing tired of the whole topic, said that even though he won't back out of a deal he made with owner Trump Entertainment Resorts to acquire the Taj Mahal and pump $100 million into it, he wishes he never answered the phone when the company first called him about it.

"One overriding fact is perfectly clear: The Taj is quickly running out of money and will almost certainly close," Icahn told the AP. "Reprehensibly, the union, instead of working with, and trying to help, the company to keep the Taj alive, is instead doing everything to destroy the possibility of saving the jobs of over 3,000 employees."

Union members said they will picket outside the casino on Friday night to protest a court-ordered termination of employees' health care and pension plans.

Trump Entertainment has declined to comment. It had threatened to close the Taj Mahal on Nov. 13 if it didn't get a judge to free it from making health care and pension payments for the casino's workers. It now promises to keep the casino open at least through November.

For decades Atlantic City enjoyed a monopoly on gambling on the East Coast. But as casinos popped up in neighboring states, gamblers found they no longer needed to drive or ride buses to New Jersey to play the slots or table games. Atlantic City's casino revenue has fallen from $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.86 billion last year, and it will be considerably less this year with the closures of at least a third of its casinos.

Trump Entertainment Resorts acknowledges its finances are dire but says it is doing everything it can to preserve the Taj Mahal and the jobs. It previously warned it was in danger of running out of money in early December, before it got a bankruptcy court judge to cancel its contract with Local 54 of the Unite-HERE casino workers' union. The move saves the company $14.6 million a year.

Icahn also owns Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino and Resort, which he bought out of bankruptcy in 2010. He said he was approached by Trump Entertainment about canceling the $286 million in company debt he owns and converting that into ownership of the Taj Mahal. The plan involves him investing $100 million into the casino but only if the union contract is canceled and if the state contributes $175 million in aid — a request already rejected by state Senate President Steve Sweeney. An earlier plan, since dropped, also called on Atlantic City to grant large tax breaks to the company.

Icahn said he had "walked into a hornet's nest here."

"Frankly, several of my advisers have told me that if the city and the state did not come up with the money, they'd be doing me a large favor," Icahn said. "Even if we get the concessions from the city and the state, we're going to lose a lot of money. Everybody thinks I'm trying very hard to do this. I'm not."

___

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC


          TV runner-up Aiken seeks win in NC House race   

Eleven years after becoming a national TV sensation, Clay Aiken still attracts a crowd in central North Carolina. In an hour he could only get a block or so down the street during an old textile town's fall festival while fans stopped to talk and take pictures.

"I can't believe you're here!" exclaimed Suzanne Strickland, 23, after she and her mother left their craft booth at Erwin Denim Days. "I saw you watching 'American Idol'!"

Finishing second for Congress won't cut it for the 2003 runner-up on the Fox show that vaulted him to a singing career and another second-place finish on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice." Rather, he would just be another Democratic candidate who failed to beat the odds on North Carolina's congressional map since Republicans redrew it and shifted the delegation's makeup to the right.

While national Democratic groups haven't arrived with financial support, Aiken believes there's a path to victory in the U-shaped 2nd District over Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. He's trying to attract independent and Republican voters who recall his appearances as a crooner, and he's hoping to catch breaks on the waves of unhappiness with Republican state government and gridlocked Washington politics.

"People are very dissatisfied with Congress in general and getting absolutely nothing done," Aiken said in an interview. He said Ellmers, a nurse, is wrongly fixated on repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law, rather than fixing its problems. "If after three or four years, you still haven't gotten anything done, then what are you getting paid for?"

Ellmers, who like Aiken was a first-time candidate four years ago when she upset Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge, is throwing political inexperience back at Aiken and suggesting he's role-playing to win votes.

"He's an entertainer. He's an actor," Ellmers, 50, said in an interview after addressing the Kiwanis Club in Apex earlier this month. "He believes that he can change costume and get into character and speak to whichever group and win them over."

Ellmers is surely favored in a district anchored by Fort Bragg, affluent suburbs west of Raleigh, retirees near the famous Pinehurst golf resort and solid red south of Greensboro. The 2011 redistricting made the district swing more Republican, as Mitt Romney received nearly 58 percent of the 2012 presidential vote there, according to an analysis by the business advocacy group the North Carolina Chamber.

If the race were competitive, outside groups would be investing in Aiken's candidacy, said North Carolina Chamber political director Nathan Babcock, but he expected they won't because they've got more pressing races.

Scott Falmlen, a longtime Democratic political consultant in Raleigh, believes there's a recipe for Democratic success in the district and says Aiken is following it well. But Falmlen isn't willing to predict a victory. Aiken raised more than $1 million for his campaign since February, benefiting from Broadway and Los Angeles events along the way. He hired veteran strategists and scheduled a bus trip through the district in the campaign's final three weeks. Ellmers, who has raised more than $1.8 million this cycle, is battling anti-incumbent sentiment.

Aiken has "presented himself as a very credible candidate and I think some people wondered whether that would be the case," said Falmlen, who isn't working with Aiken. "He comes across as knowledgeable of the issues."

During a Saturday in the 2nd District, Aiken, 35, engaged well-wishers as they browsed jewelry and ate barbecue, stopping for photos and hugs. But he also discussed veterans' medical care and Medicaid expansion. He gave stickers to GOP voters that read "Republaiken," wordplay on his name and the opposition party.

Ellmers "has done absolutely nothing and I'm ready for a change," said registered Republican Peter de Young, 67, of Pinehurst, who met Aiken at a street fair in Cameron.

Ellmers, who frequents cable news shows and heads the Republican Women's Policy Committee, blames Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid for refusing to consider House legislation. "I can't force the Senate to act, but the American people can," she said, suggesting they should turn the Senate majority Republican next month.

Aiken has tried to distance himself from Obama, saying he disagrees with him on issues and believes several changes should be made to the president's signature health care law. But during their lone televised debate, Ellmers contended that, in the end, "you support Obamacare."

Aiken is a gay man running in a largely conservative district. Among passers-by in Erwin, it wasn't an issue. "That's his choice, that's his life. It doesn't affect me at all," said Susan Boggs, 38, of Erwin.

Aiken supports gay marriage while Ellmers does not, though she publicly opposed the 2012 constitutional amendment in North Carolina that banned gay marriage. Both said during their debate that the issue of same-sex marriage, which is being decided in federal courts across the country, is out of their hands.

Aiken received almost 12 million votes nationwide while narrowly losing to "Idol" winner Ruben Studdard in 2003. This year, he edged out a well-known local businessman in the Democratic primary. It may take the ardent support of local "Claymates" — Aiken's fan base during his "Idol" run— to win the title of congressman.


          'BradCast' 6/8/2017: (Guest: Marcy Wheeler on James Comey's Senate testimony)   
Independent investigative journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muckraking with Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com
          'BradCast' 6/7/2017 (Comey's Senate testimony; Callers on Impeachment and NSA leaker Reality Winner)   
Independent, investigative news, reporting, interviews and commentary
          'BradCast' 5/3/2017: ('Really Bad or Catastrophic': Comey testifies at Senate Intel Comm.)   
Independent, investigative news, reporting, interviews and commentary
          'BradCast' 1/10/2017: (Senate confirmation hearings for Trump A.G. nominee Jeff Sessions)   
Independent investigative journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muckraking with Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com
          'BradCast' 10/24/2016 (The fight for control of the U.S. Senate with Daily Kos Elections editor David Jarman)   
Independent investigative journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muckraking with Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com
          Biotech Stocks Are Soaring, Todd Hagopian Leads The Way   
Todd Hagopian’s Biotech Fund is up over 30% as many of his stock picks have taken off after President Trump and Senate Republicans turned their attention to healthcare.
          Middle-Age Adults and Frail Seniors Would Pay More For Care Under The Draft Senate Health Plan   
The draft Senate health plan would raise insurance costs for those age 50-64 and slash Medicaid benefits for the frail elderly and younger people with disabilities.
          Wisconsin Senate GOP leader: Budget talks are back on track   
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Discussions to reach a Wisconsin state budget deal are “back on track” following a closed-door meeting Wednesday with Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders, said Senate Majority Leader Scott
          BradCast 5/12/2015 (Guest: David Dayen on Dems blocking Obama on TPP in the U.S. Senate)   
Independent investigative journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muckraking with Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com
          BradCast 3/12/2014 (Guest: Marcy Wheeler on CIA/Senate spying scandal)   
Independent investigative journalism, broadcasting, trouble-making and muckraking with Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com
          The Captain's AMERICA - Third Watch For June 28th...   
itunes pic
Simply The BEST Overnight Live Talk Radio Show! When You Really NEED To Know, We Are THE Place To Go! Listen To "Tomorrow's News, TONIGHT!".... "The Captain's AMERICA - Third Watch" with Retired Captain Matt Bruce is LIVE Wednesday June 28th from 2-6 AM ET across America broadcasting from Tampa, FL on our Salem Media Group Flagship Station #AM860TheAnswer & also heard on the Red Nation Rising & Talk America Radio Networks! Breaking News as it happens all night long! Informing those hard working people on the 'Third Watch' who keep America going! You'll also hear the latest Military News updates coming from Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya & Syria plus the latest Veterans VA News... Tonight, Senate Republicans delay healthcare Vote until after July 4th! The Dems are going NUTS over the SCOTUS decision on the 'Travel Ban'! Sarah Palin sues NYT over Editorial tying her to Gabby Giffords shooting! Intel has reached the White House about Syria planning another Chemical Weapons Attack! Reuters is reporting the USS Fitzgerald may have been totally at fault when it collided with the ACX Crystal! The War on Terror rages on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria & many other places around the World... Guests tonight are: Christopher Buskirk - Am Greatness & AM 960 The Patriot Host, Rosemary - The Prayer Intercessor, Scott James - GA Talk Radio Host in DC, Mark Walters - Armed American Radio & Chris Markowski - The Watchdog On Wall Street. Listeners are always invited to CALL 1-877-969-8600 to opine... We are currently heard on 55 radio affiliates in 28 States & are adding more new affiliates! Atlanta, you can hear us on #am920theanswer, also heard on our Salem Media Group stations #am930theanswer, #am1380thebiz, FM 103.1 Bradenton, FM 93.7 Bayshore Gardens, Talk 92.1 WDDQ FM in Valdosta, GA, Talk 107.5 WJHC in Jasper, FL, AM 1330 WLBB in Carrollton, GA, #Megatalk 920 KGTK AM and 1400 KITZ AM in Seattle-Olympia-Tacoma-Bremerton WA, Red Nation Rising Radio Network, AM 1180 KCKQ - Reno, Cowboy Logic Radio, Freedom In America Radio, iCRN - The Conservative Radio Network, iHeart Radio, IPBN-FM, iTunes, RadioWays Radio - Germany, ROKU, Talk Stream Live, Top Talk Radio & TuneIn. Download our FREE app for your iPad, iPhone, Laptop or Personal Computer by going to the AM 860 The Answer website... Tell your friends to tune in & get informed! Coming SOON to more NEW radio stations! Breaking News when it happens with great guests! it's ALL about America on this show & you have a VOICE on "The Captain's AMERICA - Third Watch." Stay SAFE, Be VIGILANT, God Bless America... The Captain's AMERICA - Third Watch is a Veteran & First Responder Owned Radio Show brought to you by these sponsors: #MausNissan , #FloridaFirearmsAcademy , #FrankiesPatriotBBQ , #DomenicksBlinds , #FreedomBoatClubTampaBay. , #Xtendovite, #NationalAviationAcademy & #SunCountryCleaners. Please check out our Sponsors! Some are Veteran Owned but ALL give Active Duty Military, Veterans & First Responder discounts... #Afghanistan #Congress #DonaldTrump #Intel #Iran #Iraq #ISIS #Leaks #Military #NKorea #Politics #Radio #Syria #Terrorism #USA #Veterans
          US Senate IP address linked to Snowden Wikipedia change from "dissident" to "traitor"   


An anonymous person changed Edward Snowden's Wikipedia entry so that it called him "an American traitor" rather than "an American dissident." The editor's IP address is from a block assigned to the US Senate. (more…)


          UPDATE 4-U.S. Senate Republicans struggle to salvage healthcare effort   
WASHINGTON, June 28- The top U.S. Senate Republican struggled on Wednesday to salvage major healthcare legislation sought by President Donald Trump, meeting privately with a parade of skeptical senators as critics within the party urged substantial changes. Acknowledging demands from fellow Republicans for increased input into retooling the...
          Selling the GOP health care bill: Does Trump help or hurt?   
WASHINGTON— It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000- person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system. Bob Corker, R- Tenn. "But I'd let Mitch handle it," he continued, referring to the lead role Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has played thus far.
          UPDATE 1-Despite healthcare setback, Trump says big surprise on bill could come   
WASHINGTON, June 28- Despite a major setback in the U.S. Senate, President Trump said on Wednesday that the Republican healthcare bill was moving along well and predicted a "surprise" was yet to come. In a big hit to a seven-year quest to undo Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell...
          UPDATE 3-With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
WASHINGTON, June 28- Senate Republican leaders faced calls from critics within the party on Wednesday for substantial changes, rather than mere tinkering, to a major healthcare bill if they are to salvage their effort to repeal major parts of the Obamacare law. In a big setback to the seven-year Republican quest to undo Democratic former President Barack...
          Despite healthcare hit, Trump says big surprise on bill could come   
WASHINGTON, June 28- Despite a major setback in the U.S. Senate, President Trump said on Wednesday that the Republican healthcare bill was moving along well and predicted a "big surprise" was yet to come. In a big hit to a seven-year quest to undo Democratic former President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch...
          UPDATE 2-With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
Acknowledging demands from fellow Republicans for more input into retooling the legislation, McConnell said on the Senate floor, "Senators will have more opportunities to offer their thoughts as we work toward an agreement." With Democrats unified against it and Republicans controlling the Senate by a slim 52-48 margin, McConnell can afford to lose only two...
          UPDATE 1-With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
Acknowledging demands from fellow Republicans for more input into retooling the legislation, McConnell said on the Senate floor, "Senators will have more opportunities to offer their thoughts as we work toward an agreement." With Democrats unified against it and Republicans controlling the Senate by a slim 52-48 margin, McConnell can afford to lose only two...
          With U.S. healthcare bill in disarray, Republicans demand revamp   
Acknowledging demands from fellow Republicans for more input into retooling the legislation, McConnell said on the Senate floor, "Senators will have more opportunities to offer their thoughts as we work toward an agreement." With Democrats unified against it and Republicans controlling the Senate by a slim 52-48 margin, McConnell can afford to lose only two...
          Senate Republican leaders want health bill revised by Friday -Cornyn   
WASHINGTON, June 28- U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn on Wednesday indicated Republican leaders want changes to their draft healthcare legislation completed this week so lawmakers could review the revised plan over next week's congressional recess.
          The Latest: Trump promises 'big surprise' on health care   
The White House did not elaborate on what Trump meant. Earlier Wednesday, Trump told reporters getting approval of a Senate health care bill will be "very tough. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on Trump to meet with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate bill.
          Little progress evident as GOP hunts health bill votes   
WASHINGTON— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explored options for salvaging the battered Republican health care bill Wednesday but confronted an expanding chorus of GOP detractors, deepening the uncertainty over whether the party can resuscitate its bedrock promise to repeal President Barack Obama's overhaul. A day after McConnell, short of...
          Mitch McConnell: Working on getting 50 people to support health-care bill   
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will delay the vote on the Republican leadership's health-care bill until after the July 4 break.
          Veto threat stirs worries for 911 funding   
Emergency dispatchers say they fear a threatened veto of a bill that would extend funding for 911 call centers could hamper life-saving efforts. Senate Bill 1839 would raise telephone surcharges dedicated for 911 services from 87 cents to $1.50 a month in most of the state and from $3.90 to $5 in Chicago. The increases […]
          Comment on “Anti-Selfie Bill” Breeds Discontent in the Philippines by JJR   
I wonder how is it going right now? Did it even gain ground in the Senate? Such a ridiculous bill! Am interested to know because of a recent incident at a popular food chain. Thanks!
          FULL REBUTTAL: Michael Radelet & Ben Cohen   
To: All Editors and crime/government/political reporters & commentators
       The Advocate

Michael L. Radelet, sociologist, University of Colorado
Ben Cohen, of counsel, Promise of Justice Initiative.

cc: Governor John Bel Edwards and staff
Louisiana House and Senate
Justices Louisiana Supreme Court
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and staff
Louisiana District Attorneys Assoc.
Louisiana Sheriff's Assoc.
Louisiana State Troopers Assoc.

All Catholic Diocese, Bishops and staff

Media throughout Louisiana 
Editors, Bureau Chiefs, Directors, Managers and government/crime reporters

RE: Full Rebuttal to:
Guest column: Death penalty deters crime? Facts and most criminologists beg to differ, Michael L. Radelet and Ben Cohen, The Advocate,  MAY 11, 2017

From: Dudley Sharp

I quote Radelet & Cohen (R&C), then rebut them, point by point, for every point.

1) Radelet & Cohen: "The Louisiana Legislature is considering two bills to replace the death penalty with life without parole, saving Louisiana — under conservative estimates — at least 10 million dollars annually."

Rebuttal: There is no cost analysis of life without parole and the death penalty in Louisiana.  Presumption is not fact, not matter how R&C wishes it to be so, to the contrary.

Here is a suggested, thorough "apples to apples" protocol for such a study (1). 

No one questions that Louisiana's death penalty system is inefficient and that it can be made much more responsible. It is not the death penalty which is inefficient, but the managers of the death penalty who are. Fix them.

For example, see Virginia, with 111 executions since 1976, within 7 years of appeals, on average, with an 11% overturning rate in appeals, a protocol which would save every jurisdiction money over life without parole (LWOP) (2).

If Virginia can do it so can Louisiana.

Rationally and legally, death penalty protocols should be less expensive than LWOP protocols, as detailed (2).

2) Radelet & Cohen: "As Frank Baumgartner and others have noted, some 82 percent of Louisiana death sentences imposed since 1976 have been reversed."

Rebuttal:   Radelet & Cohen have as difficult a time fact checking and doing math, as does Baumgartner.

Baumgartner established that there has been 241 death sentences in Louisiana, since 1976, with 127 reversed on appeal, which is 53%, not 82%, as previously sent to those addressed, hereto, with

Race & Reversals: Fact checking Prof. Baumgartner:
In a message dated 4/27/2017 4:07:52 P.M. CDT

also re-read

How bad is Prof. Frank Baumgartner?
In a message dated 4/27/2017 4:07:52 P.M. CDT

also sent to those addressed, hereto, on those dates.

======
A reliable, unbiased source established the death row overturning rate in Louisiana at 49%, as of Dec., 2013. In Virginia it is 11%. (TABLE 17, Prisoners sentenced to death and the outcome of the sentence, by jurisdiction, 1973–2013, Capital Punishment, 2013 - Statistical Tables | December 2014, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Prisoner Statistics Program (NPS-8), page 20, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cp13st.pdf
======


3) Radelet & Cohen: "And with last month’s exoneration of Rodricus Crawford, 11 individuals sentenced to death in Louisiana have been released from prison without any charges whatsoever. By any measure, Louisiana taxpayers are getting scammed."

Rebuttal:  Released does no mean actually innocent, as R&C both know (3), as do we all and, as detailed, to those addressed, hereto. with

Death Row: The "Exoneration" Frauds 
Date: 4/28/2017 6:54:38 A.M. CDT

4) Radelet & Cohen: "Jeff Sadow’s column of May 6 — suggesting Louisiana’s death penalty might save lives by deterring capital murder— is both empirically and logically moribund, and is counter to the views of virtually all the top criminologists in the United States. In 2012, the renowned National Research Council, a division of the National Academy of Sciences and composed of the foremost scholars in the United States, reviewed all the research done on the deterrence question, and concluded that there is not a shred of evidence that the death penalty has any effect on the homicide rate. Their report also discredited the small number of studies that had claimed to find a deterrent effect."

Rebuttal:  It has never and can never be proven that the death penalty deters none (4). R&C must know that. Therefore, your option is to risk sacrificing more innocents by having no death penalty/execution or to "risk" saving more innocent lives by having the death penalty/executions (4,5).

It is not disputed that the death penalty saves innocent lives, in, at least two ways, better than does LWOP (4).

In addition, by fact and reason, the death penalty is an enhanced deterrent over LWOP (4,5).

Most people understand what would happen if we stopped enforcing  all criminal laws. See Somolia. Most, if not all, sanctions deter some. Some sociologists and criminologists don't see it.  Willful blindness.

The National Research Council (NRC) study (the Nagin study) was headed by  Prof. Nagin, whose academic chair is paid for by an anti death penalty trust (4), with two other well known anti death penalty groups funding the study (6).  Conflicts of interest are rarely this obvious.

In addition, the Nagin study was, easily, undermined (6). It appears that the only thing the NRC did was to publish the study and to forget about NRC's conflict of interest rules (6).

The Nagin study did not discredit any of the studies finding for death penalty/execution deterrence (6). The Nagin study discredited itself, as detailed (6).

5) Radelet & Cohen: ". . .  (Radelet) found in a 2009 study, 95 percent of the nation’s top criminologists — a group to which it seems unlikely Sadow belongs — rejected the idea that the death penalty is a better deterrent than life without parole to the commission of homicide."

Rebuttal: First, in that study the criminologists tell you they believe in death penalty deterrence but reject "that the death penalty is a better deterrent than life without parole to the commission of homicide".  A little, rational progress.

Nearly all of us, inclusive of potential murderers, prefer life over death and fear death over life. That which we prefer more, deters less. That which we fear more, deters more. Basic.

What Radelet & Cohen "forgot" to infom you about Radelet's survey:

"Within this Survey, the response to question 12 finds that 92% of the criminologists agree that the death penalty may deter some." (7)

"The responses to question 8 found that 61% (or 46) of the criminologists found some support for the deterrent effects of the death penalty through the empirical, social science studies." (7)

6)  Radelet & Cohen: "Over the last 25 years, the murder rate in states without the death penalty has been consistently lower than in states with the death penalty."

Rebuttal: It's hard to believe that R&C are unaware that such tells us nothing.

As is well known, as a rule, deterrence cannot be measured by murder rates. Somehow, R&C are unaware? Really? Nagin's study used murder rates, as well.

Let's say Iceland and it's capital Reykjavikare are the country and city with the lowest crime and murder rates in the world.

Does that mean that every other city and country have no deterrence because their crime and murder rates are higher than those two?

Of course not. Such would be an absurd conclusion, which is what R&C want you to accept.

Deterrence is based upon whether some criminal activity is deterred because the potential criminal is restrained, based upon a conscious or subconscious fear of being caught and/or sanctioned, if they commit the crime, regardless of the crime rates and regardless of crimes going up, down or remaining the same.

If you looked at differences in crime rates within neighborhoods, zip codes, towns, cities, and counties within each state or between all the world's countries, with and without the death penalty, crime and murder rates will be high, some low, some medium, whether in a death penalty jurisdiction or not.  We all know it, just from the communities within which we live and our knowledge of the world.

For example: "Henderson, Nev., takes the No. 2 spot (America's Safest Cities) despite its location within the Metropolitan Statistical Area of Las Vegas-Paradise, which ranked ninth this year on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Dangerous Cities." (8)

In Louisiana, during the same period of time, we have this:

In the towns of Golden Meadow, Blanchard and DeQuincy the violent crime rate per 1000 was 0 (zero) (9).

In the towns of Hammond, Amite and Bastrop  the violent crime rate per 1000 averaged 250, one out of every four citizens (10).

Now do that same thing in the non death penalty jurisdictions of Michigan and Maryland, both with some of the highest murder rate sub-jurisdicitions in the US, but where you can also find some zero violent crime rate sub-jurisdicitions, as well.

And a comparison of countries, here (11).

All of which prove the obvious, that you can't just use murder rates to make a determination about deterrence. My guess it that Redelet has known that for about 40 years, just as with Prof. Nagin, who also used murder rates in the Nagin study.

7)  Radelet & Cohen: "Research in Arizona and Oklahoma suggests that having the death penalty increases rather than reduces the number of murders — indicating that it might actually have a brutalizing effect, increasing homicides and detracting from the valuing of life. There is reason to suspect that this brutalizing effect exists in Louisiana— where the state has the highest murder rate in the country."

Rebuttal: The "science", with this, is that if we have no sanctions, that we smile and love all criminals, give them flowers and iced tea after ever murder and rape, that because we are so altruistic, that such an atmosphere will transform criminals into Miss Manners and that utopia will reign.

That could be Senate Bill 455. Any one want to move that bill forward?

8)  Radelet & Cohen: "America’s police chiefs identify the death penalty as the last-ranked priority in reducing crime, and the most inefficient use of taxpayer dollars."

Rebuttal: It's the last ranked only because capital murder is the lowest by number of crimes, thank goodness. About 90% of police chiefs support the death penalty.

For the vast majority of police chiefs, capital murders are investigated by the best of the best detectives, showing the highest priority and have the highest rate of crimes solved, as many of us would suspect. And we all know, too well, that when an officer is murdered, it is the highest priority crime to be solved and a universal death penalty eligible crime, in US death penalty jurisdictions, as it should be.

9) Radelet & Cohen: "For many, life imprisonment is an even worse punishment than death on the gurney."

Rebuttal: Laughable. Possibly, we've had about 70,000 death penalty eligible murder since 1973, when states first began passing new statutes, in the modern death penalty era. We've sentenced about 8300 to death row, after about 25,000 death penalty option trials.

Of those 70,000 how many showed us that LWOP was worse than execution? About 141 "volunteered" for execution, meaning they waived future appeals and were executed

141 is 0.2% of 70,000, 0.56% of 25,000 and 1.7% of 8300.

So, R&C are telling us that 98.3%, 99.44% or 99.8% of capital murderers prefer life over execution. Hardly a surprise.

What we prefer more, deters less. What we fear more deters more.

Nearly 100% of all capital murderers do all they can, pre trial, in trial, within appeals and within executive clemency/commutation efforts to stay alive and avoid execution.

And nearly all of us feel the same way, inclusive of potential capital murderers.

10) Radelet & Cohen: "And when Sadow proposes a death penalty system that has reduced the risk of wrongful execution to zero, he is imagining a regime of perfection that does not exist."

 Rebuttal: Innocents are more at risk when we allow murderers to live (4).

Therefore, the anti death penalty position is to sacrifice more innocents by making sure that all guilty murderers live.

It's a trade off that anti death penalty folks have admitted to for decades.Well known anti death penalty scholars "(Charles) Black and (Hugo Adam ) Bedau said they would favor abolishing the death penalty even if they knew that doing so would increase the homicide rate by 1,000 percent." (4).

They both chose sparing the lives of 1300 guilty murderers (executed from 1973-2013) over saving an additional 6.3 million innocent lives, taken by murder (a 1000% increase in the murder rate 1973-2013).

Pro death penalty scholar Ernest van den Haag interviewed well known anti death penalty activists, asking them, if it was proven that 100 innocent lives were spared per execution, via deterrence, would you still oppose the death penalty. All said yes (4).

Based upon our 1300 executions (1973-2013), those anti death penalty folks would chose sparing the lives of 1300 guilty murderers over saving the lives of 130,000 innocents from murder.

11) Radelet & Cohen"we also suggest that academics think twice before disseminating unsubstantiated pseudo-science, especially when millions of dollars — along with the conscience of the community — are at stake."

Rebuttal: Radelet & Cohen need only look in the mirror.

======
1) Death Penalty Costs vs Life Without Parole Costs: Study Protocol
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2015/05/death-penalty-cost-study-protocol.html

2)  see Virginia et al
Saving Costs with The Death Penalty
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/02/death-penalty-cost-saving-money.html

3) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy
READ SECTIONS 3&4 FIRST
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-innocent-frauds-standard-anti-death.html

4)    The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html


5) OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate
and
MURDERERS MUCH PREFER LIFE OVER EXECUTION
99.7% of murderers tell us "Give me life, not execution"
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/03/of-course-death-penalty-deters.htm

6)  Death Penalty Deterrence: Defended & Advanced
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/06/death-penalty-deterrence-defended.html

7)  "Deterrence & the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"
http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/02/deterrence-and-the-death-penalty-a-reply-to-radelet-and-lacock.aspx

8) DEATH PENALTY DETERRENCE CLARIFIED
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/12/death-penalty-deterrence-clarified.html

9) "The 11 Safest Places To Live In Louisiana", by Kezia Kamenetz, Only in Your State, August 06, 2015,
http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/louisiana/safest-places-la/

10) "The 10 Most Dangerous Places In Louisiana", by Kezia Kamenetz, Only in Your State, August 09, 2015,
http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/louisiana/dangerous-places-la/ 

11) "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear
"http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2009/03/death-penalty-deterrence-murder-rates.html

also see

DETERRENCE, THE DEATH PENALTY & MURDER RATES
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/12/deterrence-death-penalty-murder-rates.html
          Guilty: Glenn Ford & Marty Stroud   
To: Senate Judiciary, Committee C

cc: Governor John Bel Edwards and staff
Louisiana House and Senate
Justices Louisiana Supreme Court
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and staff
Louisiana District Attorneys Assoc.
Louisiana Sheriff's Assoc.
Louisiana State Troopers Assoc.
All Catholic Diocese, Bishops and staff

Media throughout Louisiana
Editors, Bureau Chiefs, Directors, Managers and government/crime reporters

Subject: Guilty: Glenn Ford & Marty Stroud

Re: How bad? Marty Stroud's Testimony, Senate Judiciary Committee C, SB 142, April 26, 2017

From: Dudley Sharp

Preface

The committee has an obligation to make sure that A.M. "Marty" Stroud takes personal responsibility for his testimony of April 26th. Stroud, proclaimed Glenn Ford an innocent that he, as a  prosecutor, with ill intent in his heart put on death row.

That obligation extends to setting the record straight to show respect for Isadore Rozeman, the innocent robbery/murder victim, the Rozeman and Glenn Ford families, as well as for the committee.

In 2015, Marty Stroud described his 1984 self as "arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic", "full of myself",  "totally wrong", interested more in winning than justice, "I was not a nice person" (1), "win, don't care about the costs","don't care about the victim" (2), "I did something that was very, very bad." "It was a train to injustice, and I was the engineer."(3), particularly, in the context of his being a prosecutor in securing the 1984 death sentence for Glenn Ford, for the robbery/murder of Isadore Rozeman.

Unlike the 1983-84 and 1988-2012 Stroud, in "avoiding" a search for the truth, Stroud's 2017 testimony, as well as his statements, from 2014 through today, had a whole bunch of evidence which he, intentionally suppressed, in avoidance of that known evidence.


What Stroud Left Out of His Testimony -  2017

Stroud: "in the motion to dismiss the case, the prosecutor's office said "if we had known the evidence that they knew at the time of the prosecution he probably wouldn't have been arrested." (4)

Sharp:  That is very odd. The evidence in the 1984 trial was overwhelming, with regard to Ford committing multiple felonies, inclusive of being a principle to the robbery, which led to the additional circumstantial evidence proving, beyond a reasonable doubt,  that Ford was guilty of capital murder, in the case of innocent murder victim, Isadore Rozeman.

That same evidence exists, today.

There is, overwhelming, support for Ford's guilt within both the 2015 (5) and 2016 (5a) reviews of the case evidence, by six judges, all of which Stroud is aware of but, intentionally, left out of Stroud's 2015-2017 statements, inclusive of Stroud's 2017 testimony.

Even though Stroud claims he desires "all of the story that should have been disclosed" (1), his 2015-2017 examples are "hiding" all of the story that Stroud should have disclosed.

Take a look:

Glenn Ford's Guilt

In 2013-14, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office stated that it had obtained credible evidence that Ford "was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman," and filed a motion to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence. On March 10, 2014, the trial court granted the state's motion. Ford was released the following day after spending nearly 30 years on death row. (5a)

The facts are that Ford, by his own admission, was a principal participant in the robbery/murder, that he was, at the least,  guilty of second degree murder. Ford cannot be excluded from actually murdering Isadore Rozeman, that murder being a capital, death penalty eligible crime, for which he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

(2016) Justice C.J.  BROWN,  "The evidence as presented supports Ford's guilt of second degree murder and that his connection was certainly not "tangential." (5a)

The 2013 "credible evidence" for Ford's 2014 release came from a reliable informant, who remains anonymous.

Reliable informants are known to be unreliable, occasionally. Informants are only as reliable as their sources, which was, allegedly, Jake Robinson, who, allegedly, stated, to the informant, that he (Robinson)  was the shooter of Isadore Robinson and that Glenn Ford was not there. Robinson is a career criminal, who no one trusts.

Glenn Ford, at his 1984 trial, did not deny being at the scene of the robbery/murder and he cannot prove that he was not (5a) Nor can he be excluded from committing the murder.

The record reflects that, at the time of the filing of the 2014 instant petition (to release Ford), two other individuals, Jake Robinson and Henry Robinson, were being prosecuted for the robbery and murder of Mr. Rozeman. (5a)

Those charges, which originated from that informant, have, now, been dropped, for lack of evidence, in this case, as well as others'.

That doesn't mean the informant was lying, although, such may be the case.  The informant's information could not be confirmed in quite a few cases.

We know that Ford was released, based upon information that could not be confirmed.

The evidence of Glenn Ford's guilt is overwhelming, yet, he was released.

The iron solid case is that Ford should have been convicted of second degree murder, at least, and that with all of the other involved crimes, Ford would have been sentenced to life in prison and that Ford should never had been released.

(2016) the five justices, Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit: "The (informant's) statement of the district attorney is not evidence, nor has Ford produced any evidence that he was not concerned in the commission of this crime. We find no manifest error in the trial judge's (2015) conclusion regarding Ford as a principal to this crime." (5a)

2016: Justice J. DREW: " . . . it is accurate to say that the trial court (2015) found that Ford committed armed robbery. Even if not present at the moment of a crime, a person can be convicted of that crime, if otherwise involved as a principal." (5a) " . . . Ford arguably committed second degree murder arising out of the facts of this case. Had he actually been convicted of that crime, in a petit jury trial conducted in accordance with the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Ford would have never been released from prison." (5a)

Justice would be served had Ford remained in jail.

Anti death penalty folks attack informants, mercilessly (6), when they report the guilt of murderers, but love them if they report the innocence of murderers.

Stroud was very aware in 1983/1984 that the Robinson brothers were involved in the crimes, as well as all of the other facts, detailed, based upon all of Ford's statements, as well as those of other witnesses.

There wasn't enough evidence to try the Robinsons in 1984, nor was there at any later date, through today.

One wonders what evidence Stroud avoided, in 1983-84 and 1988-2012, that the police, the investigators and the lead prosecutor also avoided in 1983-1984.  Was there any?

Defense counsel Stroud's prosecutorial self flagellation tour could be attributable to his ingratiation himself into anti death penalty circles, where such "self destruction" is celebrated, as with The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project honoring Stroud with its annual Champion of Justice Award in 2016.

Justice redefined.

Remember Isadore Rozeman

======
Also see
Glenn Ford Must Be Denied Compensation
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2017/05/glenn-ford-must-be-denied-compensation.html
======

2) District Judge Katherine Dorroh, in her nine-page ruling (2015) denying Ford's request for compensation from the state for being "wrongfully incarcerated", concluded that Glenn Ford  (5, 7):

---  " knew the robbery of jewelry Isadore Rozeman on Nov. 5, 1983 was going to occur
---   did nothing to stop it
---   attempted to destroy evidence by selling items taken in the robbery and
---   attempting to find buyers for the murder weapon used by those he implicated in the murder." (5, 7).

3) At the very least, Ford knew about the robbery, in advance, was involved in the conspiracy with the Robinson brothers, did nothing to stop it, was an accessory to armed robbery,  after the fact, pawned items stolen in the robbery/murder, the day of the robbery/murder, and had, additional,  items, stolen from Isadore,  in Ford's apartment, was trying to acquire a pistol the morning of the murder and attempted to sell a pistol, the afternoon, after the murder (5, 5a, 8).

Ford admitted to all of that, and more, as Stroud well knows.

Detective Gary Pittman who testified that Ford admitted to him that he and Henry Robinson had been at Mr. Rozeman's house on the day of the murder (5a).

Also found were items stolen, the month, before, from Rozeman's house/shop. Those items were connected to Glenn Ford. (9)

Who planned the robbery? Ford was the only one involved who knew that Izadore Rozeman had valuables to steal and who knew of Rozeman's security. How? Ford worked for Rozeman (8,5,5a).

Not only does Ford have blood on his hands, figuratively, he, likely, had blood on his hands, at some point, actually.

Ford cannot be excluded from gaining access to Rozeman's home, to facilitate the robbery/murder, nor can he be excluded from being the triggerman (8, 5, 5a).

Ford had gunshot residue on his left hand. The residue was of such small amount that it could neither be confirmed nor denied that he fired a weapon (8, 5,5a).

There was a partial fingerprint on a paper bag, at the crime scene, which appeared to be used as a glove, likely to hold the gun, a method to avoid  some gunshot residue and avoid fingerprints on the weapon.  That fingerprint did not exclude Ford, but could not be matched to him (8). That partial fingerprint excluded the other suspects (8, 5,5a).

4) Isadore Rozeman was the robbery/murder victim in the Glenn Ford case.

All public quotes from Isadore Rozeman's family (2015). All their facts are supported by the record (5,5a).

"We know that Glenn Ford was intimately involved in this crime that, eventually, led to the death of our uncle. Much of this was due to the relationship of Uncle Prince (Isadore) with Glenn Ford." (10,8)

"It is undisputed Mr. Ford was involved, having sold the clocks and watches obtained from the shop during the robbery. It is undisputable Mr. Ford was shopping for a gun days before Nov. 5, 1983, and selling the weapon days after the murder." (11, 8)

"In the compensation hearing (2015), for Glenn Ford, District Judge Katherine Dorroh found that Mr. Ford "committed many crimes, including possession of stolen goods, accessory after the fact to armed robbery, and principal to armed robbery." (11)

The Rozeman family that found that those charges may resulted in "a sentence of 30 years to life without parole. Mr. Ford served 30 years in prison." (11)

They are correct, as detailed, above, and here (5a).

"What has been lost in this discussion is the real innocent victim." (11)

Sharp: Never in his testimony nor in his apology letter, did Stroud, once, mention the name of Isadore Rozeman.

"That innocent murder victim was our uncle, Isadore Rozeman, raised in Shreveport and served our country as a plane mechanic at Barksdale during World War II."  (11) "He had a shop in his home on Stoner Avenue and spent his adult life repairing and selling antique watches and clocks. (11).

"On Nov. 5, 1983, (Isadore) opened the back door and people rushed into (Isadore's) home/shop. They knocked him down, broke his glasses and then put a gun to the back of his head and pulled the trigger." (11)

Multiple witnesses had Ford near or on Isadore's property near the time of the robbery/murder (5,5a,8). Ford had, himself, in Isadore's home/shop.

None of Ford's alleged alibis could be confirmed in court (8).

"Our uncle (Isadore Rozeman) was an innocent victim. (11, 5, 5a)"

Sharp:  Stroud called Ford an "innocent victim" (1). Such would be an incredible, bizarre declaration, if we were not aware of Stroud's self confessed ethical problems.

The "innocent" and "exoneration" deceptions, by anti death penalty folks, are standard, every day occurrences (12), just as their making up false confessions are (13).

"It is also undisputable to our family that my uncle (Isadore) did not open any of the four or five locks on his back door to anyone he did not know. We all spent the night with our uncle and knew his habits. At the time of the murder, the door was not broken down." (11)

"We will never know for sure who got our uncle to turn the locks and open the door, but the most logical choice was someone who had a relationship with my uncle and who benefited from the robbery. " (11)

"Glenn Ford fits both counts while the people now felt to likely be the shooters did not have a relationship with our uncle." (11)

Sharp: It is important to note that those other people were seen with Glenn Ford both, before and after the robbery/murder (7, 5a).

"In February police interviewed Marvella Brown, Jake Robinson's girl friend. She stated that Ford arrived at her apartment around noon the day of the offense, and asked the Robinsons, "Is you still going?" The three left, she said, returning around 3:00 p.m. with a sack containing jewelry. Ford carried a .22 pistol, and Jake Robinson had a .38 (8, 5a)"

However, she recanted:

Finally, when asked if she had lied to the court, she responded, "I did lie to the Court.... I lied about all of it." (8)

The issues are that her claims of involvement fit the time line of the murder, include the stolen items, as we know was the case, and folks who were well known criminals, all of which suggest the credibility of her original witness statement.

Brown's recantations is much more suspect, as countless people in the community were intimidated by the four Robinson brothers, which would explain the recantation. (14)

Brown's recantation is, additionally, rebutted by the fact that Ford stated that one of the Robinson brothers asked Ford to sell the gun, which witnesses stated Ford was trying to sell, the same afternoon as the murder and also gave stolen goods to Ford to sell, those being stolen goods from Isadore Rozeman.

Sharp: Glenn Ford has not and cannot be excluded as a participant in the actual robbery/murder.

5) From the 2015 hearing (5):  " 14) After being asked to participate in the robbery of Mr. Rozeman by Henry Robinson, Mr. Ford went to see Mr. Rozeman and asked him if he had any work he could do (p8, 5).

Sharp: I suspect Ford made that up to explain why he was seen in the vicinity of Rozeman's house, before, after and at the time of the robbery/murder, which, I believe,  was Ford's real job, that day.

6) with all that evidence, what does Stroud say?

Stroud: “The audacity of the state’s effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling." (1)

Sharp: Mr. Stroud, the audacity is all yours. As Stroud must be aware, for the judge to have awarded compensation to Ford would have required that judge to break the law (5). The judge would have had to find Ford "actually innocent", a finding which is, actually, impossible (5,5a).

Mr. Stroud, what of the horror of Isadore Rozeman's death?  Stroud didn't mention it. 

The foundation of Ford's horror was, of course, Ford himself. But for Ford, Isadore would, almost certainly, neither have been robbed nor murdered.  All of Ford's confessions, alone, should have resulted in Ford never being released from prison.

To paraphrase Stroud: "Ford did something that was very, very bad." "It was a train to horror, and Ford was the engineer."

To paraphrase Stroud, from his 2015 apology letter (1): "I apologize to the committee in not having been more diligent in my duty to ensure that the proper disclosures of Ford's involvement in the robbery/murder was presented to the committee."


Defense Counsel

Contrary to Stroud, first chair for Ford's defense, Paul Lawrence, had, previously, taken several civil cases to trial. Lawrence had, also, clerked for La. Supreme Court Justice Albert Tate, which involves both criminal and civil cases.

Lawrence states that he "had lots of coaching before and during the (Ford) trial from experienced members of the criminal defense bar in Shreveport, including, specifically, Wellborn Jack, Jr. and his partner Rebecca Hudsmith, who is now the Federal Public Defender for the Middle and Western Districts of Louisiana."

Lawrence: " I did work very hard to master all the evidence and to draw every possible inference that could be argued to support a reasonable doubt of Ford’s guilt and I believe I did a quite respectable job of that, the jury’s verdict notwithstanding." “It was my job to provide Ford the best defense I could provide under the circumstances, regardless of his innocence or guilt, and I believe that I did that to the very best of my ability."

The appellate courts do not disagree with Lawrence.

Lawrence takes no stand on the death penalty or Ford's guilt.  (All from Sharp's discussion with Lawrence, May, 8, 2017).

Most legal folks know that civil law is much more complicated than criminal law.

While this was Lawrence's first criminal and capital trial, it was also Stroud's first capital case, for which Stroud was second chair, not lead counsel, as some misrepresent.

7) Note this very important context, from Stroud's 2015 NPR interview (15):

Interviewer CORNISH: At what point did you actually really feel guilt about what happened to Glenn Ford?

STROUD: I felt within four or five years of the verdict.

In 1984, Stroud tells us that he could, hardly, care less. From 1988/1989-2013, Stroud, allegedly, cared and still did nothing.

Which is worse? Neither could be called  . . . better.

More from the Rozemans

8) All public quotes from Isadore Rozeman's family (2015):

"We loved our uncle as we did my daughter's husband, Clint Dobson. One was killed at the age of 54, the other at 28. They were both innocent victims. However, those involved in their violent deaths are not innocent victims." (11)

"What our family learned from both (of these innocent murder victims in our family)  is that we live in a society where evil exists. There are people who do not have a moral compass and these events bear out that truth. Between society and this evil is law enforcement and those in the criminal justice system. We are thankful they stand in that gap." (11)

Sharp: What does Stroud think of Louisiana prosecutors?

Stroud: "out to win, whatever the costs." "They don't care about the victim. " "They care about their record." "The ends justified the means". (2)

Sharp: With the exception that prosecutors MUST care about their record, my guess is that, with about 95% of prosecutors, reality would condemn Stroud's slanders. And Stroud?

Doesn't it sound like he is describing himself?

We want prosecutors to care, a lot, about their record. All taxpayers and all justice loving folks want prosecutors to make the correct, responsible decisions for cases to go to trial, to plea cases when appropriate and to know when best to drop charges. Prosecutors want that to be as close to a 100% accuracy record, as possible, and so do we all.


The Rozemans continue:

"Without the accountability imposed by law enforcement and criminal justice, we would live in chaos. Because of this, we disagree with many who describe law enforcement and criminal justice as a broken system. We differ with those who wish to lessen personal responsibility, accountability and punishment for violent criminal behavior." (11)

"Our family believes in God's grace and mercy but neither of those things negate the multiple Bible stories that reference personal responsibility and personal consequences for individual actions." (11)

In Closing

The Committee should hold Stroud responsible for his testimony and should shoulder the personal responsibility that both the committee and Stroud have to Isadore Rozeman, the Rozeman and Glenn Ford families, in setting the record straight.

Don't forget Isadore Rozeman.

======

As per the Death Penalty Information Center's normal absurdities, Ford is listed as no. 144 on their "innocent" or "exonerated" from death row list.

======

Footnotes

1)  A.M. "Marty" Stroud III letter, Lead prosecutor apologizes for role in sending man to death row, Shreveport Times, 3/20/2015
http://www.shreveporttimes.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/03/20/lead-prosecutor-offers-apology-in-the-case-of-exonerated-death-row-inmate-glenn-ford/25049063/

3) 30 Years on Death Row, CBS 60 Minutes, 10/11/2015

4) I used this video because it isolates Stroud's testimony:

5) RULING ON PETITION FOR COMPENSATION FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION AND IMPRISONMENT, IN RE: Glen Ford, Docket #126,005 - SECTION 1, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, CADDO PARRISH, LOUISIANA, March 27, 2015, http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/Ford_Glenn.pdf

5a)  STATE v. FORD, No. 50,525-CA., 193 So.3d 1242 (2016), STATE of Louisiana, Plaintiff-Appellee v. Glenn FORD, Defendant-Appellant, Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit, May 18, 2016.

6) There are countless articles about distrusting informants. Just do a GOOGLE search.

8) STATE v. FORD, No. 85-KA-1039.489 So.2d 1250 (1986)
STATE of Louisiana v. Glenn FORD. Supreme Court of Louisiana.
March 31, 1986.   Rehearing Denied May 30, 1986.

9) from a reliable source, who stated it's "on police reports and either the bond hearing or preliminary examination testimony." I have not located the citation.

10) Dr. Phillip Rozeman speaks out on Glenn Ford case, video interview with Vickie Welborn, Shreveport Times, 4/10/2015, http://www.shreveporttimes.com/videos/news/2015/04/10/25590423/

11) Rozeman family: 'Glenn Ford is not an innocent victim', by Phillip Rozeman Shreveport Times, April 8, 2015 | Updated April 10, 2015


12) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy
READ SECTIONS 3&4 FIRST
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-innocent-frauds-standard-anti-death.html

and

The 4.1% "Innocent" on Death Row: More Nonsense


13) Innocence Project Invents False Confessions: 150% fraud rate in "confessions"
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-innocence-project-invents-false.html



14) CPSO detective committed to solving cold cases, Vickie Welborn, Shreveport Times, July 21, 2014,




15) Prosecutor Apologizes For Putting Innocent Man On Death Row, All Things Considered, NPR's Audie Cornish, March 23, 2015,
http://www.npr.org/2015/03/23/394906514/prosecutor-apologizes-for-putting-innocent-man-on-death-row#

          Death Penalty Costs: Utah   
Problems: Utah Death Penalty Cost Study
Dudley Sharp, 3/4/2016

To: Governor Gary Herbert and staff
Utah House, Senate and staff
Attorney General Sean Reyes and staff
Utah Prosecution Council
Utah Sheriffs' Association

Media throughout Utah

Re: Problems: Utah Death Penalty Cost Study

From: Dudley Sharp

Utah's death penalty cost study (1) has some problems.


1) No Evaluation of Actual LWOP or Death Penalty Costs

The study is based upon calculating the differences in costs between the death penalty and life without parole, without establishing the specific costs of either the death penalty or of life without parole ("LWOP", being the relevant capital murder cases).

The study did this by, allegedly, looking at all the things that Utah has to do in a death penalty case and in a LWOP case and calculating ONLY the costs of the, alleged,  differences between the two, wherein this study found $1.6 million more costs in a death penalty case.

Because of errors in methodology, we know this to be, wildly, inaccurate.


2) How Problematic

This process had several identifiable problems:

a) Gary Syphus, the fiscal analyst who did the death penalty vs LWOP cost study, stated: "To be clear I did not estimate LWOP costs" (2).

We are precluded from fact checking a detailed look at both death penalty and LWOP costs, which are, totally, absent from the study, thereby lowering any confidence in its conclusions

added 11/21/16 --  To be very clear, the methodology of the study, as detailed, and Syphus' conclusions must be very inaccurate;

b) confidence, further lowered, because the study excluded 1) the increased costs of medical and geriatric care,  for LWOP and  2) possibly excluded an increase of costs of higher security for LWOP capital murderers; 3) excluded the increased costs of the additional appellate LWOP costs; and 4) the cost savings of plea bargains to LWOP, only possible with the death penalty option and a cost credit which is applied to the death penalty side of the ledger and which can be a huge number, dramatically lowering death penalty costs, depending upon the number of LWOP pleas.

This study provides zero information for all of those calculations, wrongly excludes them, because none were looked at, establishing  many errors, undermining any confidence in the study.


3) UNDERESTIMATING LWOP COSTS

According to Syphus, the "study" used the average incarceration costs per year for THE ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION and applied those to LWOP (2).

Such underestimates LWOP costs.

a) Medical Costs

LWOP murderers will die in prison and will have a higher average costs for medical care, because, as per Syphus, the average Utah LWOP inmate will live to 76, which incurs geriatric care costs, WHICH Syphus averaged out over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, instead of applying it to LWOP, only (2).

As an example, the study averages costs inclusive of, say, a 20 year old, healthy inmate who gets a 1 year prison sentence for assault and has $0 medical costs per year and an 85 year old inmate, on kidney dialysis, who received a LWOP sentence for capital murder, at age 45, with medical costs at $348,000 per year.

This methodology destroys any confidence in the study and results in, totally, unreliable numbers, as is conceded.

In 2012, in Utah Dept. of Corrections (UDC) found that:

"About 9 percent of the state's total prison population is older than 55. (UDC) estimates health care costs of those inmates are 12 times more expensive than those of younger inmates." (3)

Syphus averaged out those 12 times more expensive geriatric LWOP cases, over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, lowering the real, true geriatric LWOP medical costs and destroying any confidence in the studies findings, as all reality was destroyed, as conceded.

Based upon Syphus' average expected age of 76, the average LWOP prisoner will have about 26 years of geriatric care  which for prisoners starts at ages 50- 55, and, in Utah, averages about additional $22,000 per year (4), or $572,000 per inmate for those additional 26 years, costs which Syphus nullified by averaging the costs over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION.

Added to that will be 5 more years of increased medical care, maybe an additional $11,000 or so per LWOP prisoner/yr., $55,000, total, to add up to the 31 years Syphus calculated as the additional years for LWOP over a death row inmate, or an estimated $627,000 total, more per LWOP inmate (4), which was excluded in the study (4).

Because of the way Syphus calculated the study, it is possible that this error could be double, or $1.254 million, as the $627,000 was excluded from the baseline of LWOP, as would apply to all other cost issues, to follow.

Utah's medical/geriatric prisoner costs are at a low level compared to many other states, as detailed (4).

For example, the renal failure unit at the Federal Medical Center (Devens)  costs $348,000/PER YEAR/PER INMATE for their 115 aging inmates, at $4 million per year for that unit, EXCLUDING MEDICATION COSTS (5).

b)  Higher security costs

As a rule, LWOP capital murderers will be in higher security than general population inmates, and such will be more costly. 

However, the spokesperson for UDC, unofficially, says that increased security in Utah does not cost more.

Such is an astounding management of costs, if accurate.

For example, one of California's maximum security units costs $172,000/PER YEAR/PER INMATE (6).

As per Syphus, Utah's average prisoner cost is about $27,000/yr/inmate (2).

It appears that Utah does a better job at controlling incarceration costs than most states. But we will still have to wait on UDC's specific cost statement, which I have been waiting on since 3/1/16 and, as of 6/2/16, have not received.

c) Inaccurate Appellate Costs

Syphus states that the legal appeals costs are within the average for the incarceration costs for the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION, as with medical costs, which indicates a highly inaccurate and strange way to arrive at very wrong numbers for LWOP costs (2).

Syphus claims that appellate costs are part of the incarceration cost average (2), which makes no sense, further lowering our confidence and, if true, indicates the same problem of averaging over the ENTIRE PRISON POPULATION and, again, dramatically,  lowering LWOP appellate costs.

For example, one would be averaging appellate costs of all inmates who plea bargained and have $0 appellate costs with those LWOP capital murderers who did not plea and have years of appeals, again, an averaging which, vastly, underestimates LWOP appellate costs, again, a lost cause for confidence.


4)  OVERESTIMATING DEATH PENALTY COSTS

Plea bargains to LWOP

With no detailed pre trial, trial and appeals costs of the LWOP cases, there is no way to calculate the actual cost credit of a LWOP plea, a cost credit only possible with the death penalty option and a plea which can create significant cost savings, which shows as a cost credit to the death penalty and which was not calculated in this study.  further destroying any confidence in the study.

No death penalty = no plea to LWOP.

Depending upon 1) how many LWOP cases are the result of a plea; 2) the cost savings of those pleas and 3) how many death row cases a state has, there is a scenario whereby the plea cost savings eradicate any alleged excessive costs of the death penalty, if there are any, and/or which would make the death penalty less costly than LWOP.

But, we are left guessing, as the study leaves out all of those important details.

Conclusion

The death penalty debate is rife with horribly inaccurate and/or misleading death penalty costs studies, some intentionally and obviously fraudulent (6), and Utah's is, not unexpectedly, just another example of that major problem.

The many problems with Utah's study cannot be clarified and/or corrected without a detailed review of both death penalty and LWOP costs, wherein, LWOP costs will rise, possibly dramatically, just as death penalty costs will go down, also possibly,  dramatically.

NOTE: These study problems are not the fault of Syphus, but of the parameters given to him by the authority requesting the study. It is unfortunate he didn't detail the problems of the study and that I had to do so.

ALTERNATE STUDY PARAMETERS

1) The easy route:

Ask all relevant entities how many people they will lay off with death penalty repeal. Likely, none, meaning death penalty repeal will have no known budgetary effect, nullifying the need for a specific, detailed cost review.

2) Detailed route:

A complete, detailed, specific  study of all financial and cost aspects of both death penalty and LWOP cases, inclusive of only capital murderers in the LWOP category.

Here is a suggested protocol for such a study (7).

UTAH'S DEATH PENALTY MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS

I have been told that Utah averages about 20 years of appeals, prior to execution.

That is not a death penalty problem. That is a management problem.

The average time for appeals, prior to execution, is 11 years, nationally, and 7 years, in Virginia.

Virginia has executed 111 murderers, since 1976, within an average of 7 years of full appeals. Their last execution, 10/1/2015, occurred after 5 years of full appeals (see Virginia within footnote 6).

If Virginia can do it, Utah can.

As a rule, there is no legal or rational reason for appeals to take longer than 6-10 years, on average, that being 2-3.3 years , each, at the state supreme court, federal district court and federal circuit court levels. Cases accepted by SCOTUS are rare.

Utah needs to fix her mismanagement problem.

Sincerely, Dudley Sharp

1) see page 2 of document, titled "Incremental Impact for One Death Penalty Offender to Execution -  State and Local, http://le.utah.gov/interim/2012/pdf/00002860.pdf
sent to me by Gary Syphus, Utah Fiscal Analyst, on 2/10/16

2) From email correspondence between myself and Gary Syphus, 2/15/16

3) "Utah one of 4 states whose inmate health care costs doubled",  Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune, October 29, 2013

4)  My cost numbers are based upon UDC published material in footnotes 3 and 4 and are, most likely, very close to the real numbers.

I have estimated $22,000/yr for geriatric LWOP prisoners (10% of prisoners) and a $1800/yr average for all those younger than geriatric (90% of prisoners), for an average cost of about $3700/yr/inmate, as per UDC (link, hereto) and an approximate 12 times greater cost for geriatric inmates than for the younger prisoners, also as per UDC in (3).

See Health Care Costs, Costs in Comparisons, UDC,
http://corrections.utah.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=2&Itemid=119&limitstart=60

5) "The Painful Price of Aging Prisons", Washington Post, May 2, 2015

6) See Death Penalty Costs: California within
Saving Costs with The Death Penalty
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/02/death-penalty-cost-saving-money.html


7) Death Penalty Costs vs Life Without Parole Costs: Study Protocol
http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2015/05/death-penalty-cost-study-protocol.html

          See alleged photos of Zamfara State Governor, Yari's $1m US mansion, details of foreign bank accounts    
 
SaharaReporters claims that Zamfara State governor,  Abudal’aziz Abubakar Yari, bought a property in the United States for  $950,000 two years after taking office. 
The 2.1-acre property is located at 14800 Bowie Farm Court, Bowie Maryland (Zip code: MD 20721) has six full and two half bathrooms with a jacuzzi in the master bedroom.
Deed documents obtained by SaharaReporters from the Circuit Court of Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA, denote Mr. Yari as the sole owner of the property, which was purchased from a limited liability company, K Hovanian Hamptons, located at Creek 11, Delaware. The company used to be known as Real Property Holding, with an address at Prince George’s County, before changing its name on 25 January 2011.
The deed on the property is dated  August 27, 2012, while the approval of the purchase was granted on 1 November 2012 after Yari paid the princely sum of $950,000 cash, there was no mortgage on the property. Equally captured on the deed document is the sum of $5,225, which was described as “recordation of tax paid” and $13,300, described as “transfer tax paid”, both offering indications that Mr. Yari operated a foreign account in clear breach of Code 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau.
A real estate property tax information obtained by Saharareporters from Prince George’s County shows that Governor Yari paid taxes on the property up till date, his 2017 estate tax was $16, 583.10.
Mr. Yari bought the property after his fraudulently awarded N25billion in road contracts in Zamfara in 2012.
The code of conduct law expressly prohibits certain public officials from operating bank accounts in any country outside Nigeria. These include the President, Vice President, governor, deputy governor, ministers, commissioners, members of the National Assembly and the Houses of Assembly of the States.
According to the deed document, Mr. Yari signed the agreement in person, with Kimberley Armstead a notary public of Montgomery County State of Maryland, serving as a witness.Governor Abdulaziz Abubakar YariSahara Reporters Media.
In May, this website exclusively reported that Mr. Yari, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, is building a 100-room hotel in Lekki, Lagos, with the $3million he stole from the Paris Club loan refund to states. Aside from the $3million, Mr. Yari was also found to have diverted the sum of N500million from the Paris Club refund to pay off a loan. He was said to have withdrawn N500million from the N19billion Paris Club refund illegally paid into the account of Nigerian Governors’ Forum as payment to “consultants”. He deposited the stolen sum into a bank account with a mortgage bank from which he had taken an N800million loan to buy properties in 2013. This move, SaharaReporters learned, enabled him to renegotiate his debt from N800million to N500million.
Mr. Yari is allegedly thought to have trousered the sum of N2.2billion from the sum illegally diverted into the Nigerian Governors’ Forum Account by the Federal Ministry of Finance. The Senate President, Mr. Bukola Saraki, and his cronies also benefited to the tune of N3.5billion from illegal diversion, which is being investigated by the EFCC. Officials of the anti-graft agency told SaharaReporters in May that Mr. Yari’s hotel, which is under construction, has been listed as a proceed of crime and will be taken over once the EFCC obtains a court order.
Mr. Yari has denied ownership of any hotel in Lagos, claiming he does not even own a plot in the Nigeria’s commercial capital. 
 More photos of the mansion and the documents below...



          Senate GOP Delays Healthcare Vote for Sausage-making Time   

The GOP sausage-making machine is busy trying to pull the Senate’s “repeal and replace” bill out of the trash bin, with many promises of candy in return for good behavior.

The post Senate GOP Delays Healthcare Vote for Sausage-making Time appeared first on Non Profit News For Nonprofit Organizations | Nonprofit Quarterly.


          Gorsuch is already pushing the Supreme Court right on religion, guns and gay rights   

When Judge Neil M. Gorsuch went before the Senate in March as President Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, he sought to assure senators he would be independent and above the political fray.

“There is no such thing as a Republican judge or Democratic judge,” he said more than once. “We...


          French Pension Reform: Street Corner Garbage And Economics   
Last night legislation was passed in the French Senate raising retirement age to 62. This needed to happen. France is in desperate need of economic reform. The government is financing pensions with debt. Many countries face pension problems, including the United States.
          Comment on Senate Bill: Travelers Must Register Cash and Digital Amounts Over $10K or Face 10 Years in Prison and Full Asset Seizure by Doctor Goldstein   
The USA is getting more medieval by the minute. I know how they do things. Even a Canadian visitor like me could be locked up for 10 years. My bitcoins live in cyberspace, and cyberspace includes the USA. I can see an American prosecutor telling the jury some crazy shit like that.
          Senate GOP leaders aim for revised health bill by Friday   
The lack of consensus on how to change the bill is making achieving that goal challenging

          Hege, Russo and BPO wow audience in evening of show-stoppers   

Reviewed by Lee Shepherd The Binghamton Philharmonic’s concert Saturday (April 29) at The Forum in Binghamton should have been called the battle of the show-stoppers. A massive (nearly an hour long) Brahms’ piano concerto with guest artist Andrew Russo filled the first half of the concert; the second half of the program ended with Stravinsky’s exhilarating Firebird Suite, a show-stopper to end all show-stoppers. In between, we sampled a Viennese delicacy, Mozart’s overture from The Magic Flute. Russo, playing Brahms’ Concerto for Piano No. 1, Op. 15, in D minor, poured every inch of his tall frame and enormous strength into the work. In fact, I worried for the safety of the Steinway, as he slammed the keyboard and pedals with brutal force. But he also was capable of immense tenderness and pathos. While much of Brahms’ music is a marriage of heart and mind, the middle movement of the concerto is all emotion — thought to be the 26-year–old composer’s love note to Clara Schumann. At times, Russo was hard to watch, his face in agonizing contortions, his body and head torqued away from the keyboard. But the music that resulted was nothing less than sublime. A finalist in the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, he is known for his diverse interests in politics and business. His day job? Russo directs a financial services’ business in Syracuse and once ran for New York State Senate. In this race for voter approval, Russo earned a standing ovation and two curtain calls. Needless to say, the orchestral part to the Brahms is fiendishly difficult, but apparently not a bit daunting to members of the BPO, who matched Russo parry for parry. Sounding deceptively easy, playful and folksy, the overture to The Magic Flute is full of technical challenges.The trick with Continue Reading

The post Hege, Russo and BPO wow audience in evening of show-stoppers appeared first on Broome County Arts Council.


          Michigan: plan to study how trial courts are funded clears legislature; report due by 2019   
Michigan’s House and Senate approved yesterday (June 15) creation of a commission to examine how Michigan’s trial courts are funded. HB 4613 as approved by both chambers would create the Trial Court Funding Commission. The Commission comes in light of People v. Cunningham, a July 2014 Michigan Supreme Court decision holding that a section of the … Continue reading Michigan: plan to study how trial courts are funded clears legislature; report due by 2019
          Michigan: bills set for hearing next week would require state court administrative office certify all veterans, drug, DWI, and mental health courts   
A set of bills up for a hearing next week in the Michigan Senate’s Judiciary Committee would require that judges/courts that want to operate special problem solving dockets would have to be certified by the state court administrator’s office. SB 435 (drug courts), SB 436 (DWI/sobriety courts), SB 437 (mental health courts), and SB 438 … Continue reading Michigan: bills set for hearing next week would require state court administrative office certify all veterans, drug, DWI, and mental health courts
          New Jersey: latest in 15+ year effort to require state supreme court justices be subject to retention elections; legislative reaction & disagreement with high court’s rulings   
News reports indicate that at least two members of the New Jersey Senate plan to introduced a constitutional amendment to require New Jersey supreme court justices face voters in yes/no retention elections. This plan is the latest in a 15-year pattern of similar efforts filed in the legislature after the state’s supreme court apparently in … Continue reading New Jersey: latest in 15+ year effort to require state supreme court justices be subject to retention elections; legislative reaction & disagreement with high court’s rulings
          Texas: House and Senate approve plan to end straight ticket voting for judicial & other races, but lawsuits planned   
When Texas’ chief justice in his State of the Judiciary address brought up the issue of ending straight ticket voting (STV) for judicial races I wondered what that legislation might look like. Would it end STV for judicial races only? Some judicial races? The answer now appears to be all races, judicial included. HB 25, … Continue reading Texas: House and Senate approve plan to end straight ticket voting for judicial & other races, but lawsuits planned
          Alaska: bill allows legislature to declare judicial decisions impeachable “malfeasance”, removes judicial review; similar to 2016 Kansas Senate effort   
A plan to allow for the impeachment of Alaska’s judges for their decisions has been filed in that state’s House in a move almost identical to one put forth in the Kansas Senate last year. The Alaska Constitution provides that “all civil officers” are subject to impeachment, but fails to specify the reasons for impeachment … Continue reading Alaska: bill allows legislature to declare judicial decisions impeachable “malfeasance”, removes judicial review; similar to 2016 Kansas Senate effort
          GOP senators’ Trumpcare: Meaner in many ways than even House plans   
After weeks of huddling in partisan secrecy, majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate have coughed up what they’ve dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act , aka their version of Trumpcare. In brief, the GOP Senate bill would: Slash Medicaid, faster and more than the House version, aka the American Health Care Act Continue reading
          What’s the Senate hiding on health care bill?   
Bernie Sanders recently offered on Twitter what he described as a display of all the Senate Republicans’ public considerations of the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare: a photo of a blank piece of paper. Not a bad jibe, and a window into the deepening bipartisan dismay that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his  Republicans soon […]
          The Legislative Gazette #1507   
(Airs 2/13) The Legislative Gazette is a weekly program about New York State Government and politics. On this week's Gazette: A day after Senate...
          The Legislative Gazette #1502   
(Airs 1/9/15) The Legislative Gazette is a weekly program about New York State Government and politics. On this week's Gazette: The New York Senate...
          Star Trek Nemesis Review   
In 2002 I passed this around to my cadre of geek friends back in the day. Reposted by request.

"Waitaminit, we're not even the same height!"
<my humble opinion>

I've seen it twice now, and although Nemesis has many good moments, it just doesn't stand up to any sort of close scrutiny. I can't deny that its best moments leave a distinct emotional and/or visceral impact, but these moments are sabotaged by some downright stupid plot holes, plus the fact that far too many events depend on characters (both good and bad guys) either Overlooking The Obvious or Making Stupid/Unlikely Decisions. Plus, the writers, although they admittedly inject a refreshing perspective into the script, don't pay enough attention to established TNG lore. It's far from the Best. Trek. Ever. It's not even the best TNG-cast movie ever.

Consider... (Comments are generally in movie sequence order )

What would have happened in the opening scene if one Romulan Senator had thought to say "Oh, Senator Tal'aura, you forgot your Big Conspicuous Red Thingy?" She'd be unable to refuse to take it with her; her deceit would have been instantly spotted (given that Romulan regime changes happen so often), and she would have had to take it with her into a broom closet and do the Honorable Thing. Someone could've swept her dust out later. (Oh and none of the deadly Thaloofian radiation escaped out the metal gate of the senate room door? Damn clever technology, that rad bomb.) And what happened to her anyway? She doesn't appear after that scene.

Even though the image of the Senate's demise was gripping, the sequence of events leading up to that could've been handled much more effectively. None of this "Um, excuse me, gentlemen, I have a dentist appointment, gotta go" bush-league stuff. She could have concealed the weapon. She could have sacrificed herself. I could go on, but you get my point.

Technical Note: Couldn't help but notice that in the CGI external shots of the Romulan Capital Complex, the water doesn't lap against the land. It just runs underneath it.

Wesley's off in another dimension with The Traveler. What the fuck is he doing at the wedding? How could Troi and Ryker get the invitation to him? (If he had to appear, they could've at least given Wil Wheaton - who has aged quite well, I must say - the dignity of dialogue, and not leave his lines on the cutting room floor.)

Please, Mr Spiner. We know you're an established Broadway actor with numerous musical theatre credits. We know you've made a solo album. Please. As long as you remain part of the Star Trek Franchise, I implore you to Never. Sing. Again. (in a ST movie, that is.) Thank you, though, for cutting the "Blue Skies" number short.

I applaud the Enterprise's amazingly accurate sensors, being able to pick up a "faint positronic energy pattern" on a planet many light years away (and completely out of their path). Even if you buy that, the fact that it's on a previously unexplored planet veerrrryyy close to the Romulan Neutral Zone should've raised some suspicions. Couldn't they have checked it out on the way back from Betazed? Or just sent a probe?

Worf has next to nothing to do in this movie! His only lines are comic relief. He's drunk, he hates Irving Berlin, he doesn't want to go naked, etc.

I really dig the camera filter used in the Planet Southern California sequence; it gives the scene an entirely refreshing immediacy lacking in most of the other ST movies. However I can't help but notice that nearly everything that happens there is a clear and direct violation of the Prime Directive. They're using their advanced technology to attack and escape from the pre-first-contact inhabitants. And don't get me started on the straight-outta-Dukes-Of-Hazzard dune buggy leap into the Argo. Puh-lease.

Let's see. They find an android that looks exactly like Data. Hmm. Funny that no one thought to say "Lore." And funnier still that nobody, not even Data, noticed that Extra Data Port on the back of B4's neck until after the Data download (no pun intended, I think); especially after Crusher's pronouncement that "structurally, he's exactly the same as you." Side note: The TNG characters are showing their age. I suppose that both Data and B4 have built-in Paunchy Gut Subroutines built into their programming.

Admiral Janeway's cameo: from an acting standpoint, it's trash. It's obvious that her speech and Picard's reactions were recorded separately.

Why do they make Shinzon look like Nosferatu? The vampire metaphor is inconsistent, even if he needs Picard's blood. Or is he supposed to be Ming The Merciless?

How did Shinzon build the Scimitar, a fucking humongous warship filled to the brim with phasers and photon torpedos as well as a huge Thaloofian Radiation generator, without Romulan detection? If the Enterprise's sensors are so sensitive (see above), they could've detected the Scimitar from Earth!

Shame on whoever made the decision that all that's required to clone Picard is to take a young British actor with only a slight physical resemblance to Patrick Stewart (and by slight, I mean none) and shave his head. (And another violation of TNG lore: Young Picard, as portrayed in that Back In My Academy Days episode, had a full head of hair.)

It's never explained why Shinzon initially kidnapped Picard. They take a blood sample that is never referred to again. If they used it to slow Shinzon's cellular degeneration, it is apparently ineffective. Afterwards, Picard states that Shinzon will come for him, and Shinzon orders the boarding party "Get Picard!". For what? His blood? Again???

A stupid move, that demotes Shinzon to the level of the campiest James Bond villain: I'm going to taunt you, state that I intend to kill you, and then leave you alone except for One Stupid Guard. Once Data rescues Picard, Shinzon orders the guard's death instantly. If he wanted Picard dead, he should have likewise killed him when he had the chance (after all, he already had Picard's blood sample). Unless of course he waffled. Which leads straight to my next point.

It is Shinzon waffling about his motivation, or is it the writers? If his target is Earth, why doesn't he just Go And Fucking Do It Already? He can go back for the Enterprise at his will. In fact, he can go through that transfusion process (assuming that his doctors were able to synthesize Picard's blood from the sample) on the way. (more on that later)

My, but those Remans, "a race bred for war," are fucking incompetent marksmen. But then again, all the Bad Guy Armies are like that (Vader's Stormtroopers, Sauron's Uruk Hai, any Cowboys and Indians movie...) You'd think those Evil Geniuses would know better.

The conversation in the ready room between Shinzon and Picard reminds me way too much of Return of the Jedi. "Father, I feel the conflict within you; let go of your hate!" "You do not know the power of the Dark Side, Luke" Interesting, though, that it's the older person (Picard) counseling the younger person (Shinzon), the reverse of Luke and Vader.

Stupid And Completely Out-Of-Character Action With No Other Purpose Than Advancing The Plot: Picard and the Enterprise are fleeing the Scimitar to rendezvous with the Federation force. Meanwhile, they pass through a rift that jams their communications. But it only occurs to Picard just at the point where it's too late. What made Picard and his predecessor Kirk such effective leaders was their ability to recognize potential problems like that in advance. That oversight cost Data (and many others) their lives.

I'm sorry, no. The instant that the bridge's hull is breached, every single person on that bridge is dead. This isn't a 747. People don't survive by hanging on to the armrests, or those suddenly convenient chrome handles along the edges of the consoles. That's a vacuum out there. Nature abhors it. They're all sucked out, they all pop like balloons, they're all meat. (But it's notable for adhering to one aspect of Trek Lore. See Rule #44: Mortality Rates, Lead Characters vs Minor Characters, aka The Red Shirt Rule.)

The ramming. Again, no. I can't help but notice just how much this battle (as well as the Kirk vs Khan showdown in the Mutara Nebula) is constructed like a naval battle. Physics be damned, hull tolerance be damned, full steam ahead! (I suppose it never occurred to Shinzon to, oh, I dunno, FIRE AT THE ENTERPRISE??? or perhaps BACK UP???)

The showdown scene is problematic. Healthy vigorous Picard versus dying, degenerating Shinzon? Hardly fair.

I wonder if it wouldn't have been a much better choice to have Shinzon go through the transfusion process, so that the final showdown would be Picard Versus Picard. A much more fair fight. Or, to take it a step further and dispense with Tom Hardy altogether, and have Patrick Stewart play both parts. (Hell, as a homage to Classic Trek, give Shinzon a goatee! LOL)

Shinzon's death: Excalibur. Mordred: "Come, Father, let us embrace at last." (or again, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon '80!)

Overall, Shinzon as a villain comes nowhere near the standard set by Ricardo Montalban. Shinzon's position as Romulan Praetor is very tenuous. He doesn't hold the loyalty of the Romulans, his course of action (destroying Earth) is openly questioned, he's physically deteriorating. Apart from the Extremely Nasty Weapon he has, he possesses very little power.
Khan, on the other hand, had the absolute devotion and loyalty of his crew (and for the rest, there were the Ceti Eels). His physical strength is far above that of the humans. And, unlike Shinzon, He Never Wavers In His Course Of Action.
Shinzon is just a little man with a big toy. (I suppose, though, that he can be seen on some level as a metaphor for George W...)

The Reman Viceroy deserved a better-thought-out fate than falling down a Jeffries Tube. (All too convenient reference to Trek III: "I've... Had... Enough... Of... You!!" as well as Emperor Palpateen's death in Return of the Jedi.)

Data's noble and moving sacrifice is shadowed by one nagging question: he blew up the Scimitar one second before the Thaloofian radiation ray would have been fired at the Enterprise. Are we to assume then that all that radiation was instantly neutralized by the blast? (and I suppose it was out of the question to simply deactivate the device... and I suppose Geordi couldn't have bothered to make two transporter devices... and I suppose, Oh Never Mind.)

What logical reason could there be for B4 to sing "Blue Skies" in the last scene?

And of course, even with Data gone, Brent Spiner still has a job if there's another TNG cast movie (which, given its box office returns thus far, is unlikely)

And Now, The Good Bits:
  • The psychic rape scene. This is one of the darkest and spookiest moments in the history of the Trek franchise.
  • Troi's Revenge, or as my Dad called it, the Betazoid Blowjob.
  • If I recall correctly, the scene between Data and Geordi, as Data prepares to leap into the void, contains no dialogue. All the communication of their past together, their friendship, their final farewell etc is in their eyes. A great directing choice, realized well by Brent and Levar. Hurrah.
  • I swear that during the debate about whether or not they go naked on Betazoid, I saw Riker glancing down at Worf's crotch.
  • The battle sequence, for all its flaws, is still the best balls-out battle sequence since Wrath of Khan.
Best lines:
  • Picard to Riker: "You have the bridge... (devilish grin) Mr. Troi."
  • Worf: "Irving Berlin... ugh."
  • Data: "I must deactivate you." B4: "For how long?" Data: "Indefinitely." B4: "How long is th... [click]"
  • Picard: "We will continue to Betazed, where the ceremony will be performed in accordance with Betazoid tradition! Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in the gym."
  • Shinzon: "Will you join me in your ready room?"
  • Picard: "On screen." (realizes the bridge screen is gone) "Open a channel."
  • Data: "Goodbye."

</my humble opinion>

          #8: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate   
Al Franken
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
Al Franken
4.5 out of 5 stars(412)
Release Date: May 30, 2017

Buy new: $28.00 $16.78
88 used & new from $6.00

(Visit the Hot New Releases in Books list for authoritative information on this product's current rank.)
          Before the Sept. 14 veto session, a look at SB656 and expanding gun rights in Missouri   
The Missouri Legislature’s veto session will take place this Wednesday, Sept. 14. For the bills that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed during the 2016 legislative session, both House and Senate will need a two-thirds vote to override the veto. One of the more controversial bills that Gov. Nixon vetoed in the 2016 session was Senate Bill 656, a wide-ranging gun bill, which would ease regulations on people seeking to obtain or renew a conceal-carry endorsement or permit. The bill would also create a controversial “stand your ground” law, which means a person does not need to retreat before using lethal force to defend themselves. Earlier this year, the bill passed both Missouri House and Senate with a veto-proof majority, meaning the veto has a decent change of being overridden on Wednesday. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, we heard from two differing viewpoints of SB656: Rep. Eric Burlison (R-133), a co-sponsor of the bill, and Detective Sergeant Kevin Ahlbrand, of the St. Louis
          Nixon vetoes wide-ranging gun bill   
Updated 3:14 p.m. with reaction -- Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed a wide-ranging bill that would have eased regulations on people seeking to obtain or renew a conceal-carry endorsement or permit. Nixon cited one of his main concerns with Senate Bill 656 when he told reporters last week that it could rob county sheriffs of the authority to deny conceal-carry privileges when they see fit. He expanded on that concern in his veto message today.
          Prefiled bills spotlight divide between Democrats and GOP over gun control    
Several bills on both sides of the gun control debate are being proposed by Missouri lawmakers for next year's legislative session. First, Senate Bill 589 would lift the current ban on bringing concealed firearms onto college campuses. It's sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield.
          Big City Mayors Speak Out Against Gun Nullification Bills At Missouri Capitol   
The mayors of St. Louis and Kansas City traveled to the the Missouri Capitol Monday to speak out against legislation to nullify federal gun laws within the Show-Me State. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, a Democrat, calls the legislation "absurd, embarrassing and reckless." "Missouri's lax gun laws (have) flooded our neighborhoods with cheap weapons," Slay told reporters at a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda. "If that isn't bad enough, this legislation goes a step further by making it even harder for our police and prosecutors to partner with federal authorities to fight violent crime." The Senate version of the Second Amendment Preservation Act, SB 613, would make it a misdemeanor for federal officers to enforce federal gun laws that conflict with a Missouri resident's "right to keep and bear arms." The House version, HB 1439, doesn't make it a crime, but instead makes those trying to enforce federal gun laws liable to being sued in court. Kansas City Mayor Sly James says that his
          Missouri Senate Sends Gun Control Nullification Bill to Mo. House; House Version Passes Committee   
Without one word of debate, the Missouri Senate Thursday passed legislation to nullify federal gun-control laws in Missouri. Senate Bill 613, also known as the Second Amendment Preservation Act, would make it a misdemeanor for federal officers to enforce federal gun-control measures within Missouri's borders if those measures are found to violate Missourians' right to "keep and bear arms." The bill passed 23-10 mostly along party lines; state Sen. Box Dixon of Springfield was the only Republican who joined Democrats in voting "no." It's now in the hands of the Missouri House, where Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, says he hasn't been paying attention to the bill's progress. "I've been focused on jobs, creating a good business climate for jobs this year," Jones said. "We'll continue to remain steadfast in the values Missourians hold dear." Jones told reporters Thursday he has no preference whether it's a House or Senate bill, as long as the nullification measure makes it back to Gov. Jay
          Missouri Senate Strips Gun Theft Reporting Amendment From Nullification Bill   
The Missouri Senate has stripped an amendment from the gun-control nullification bill that would have required an individual to report a stolen gun within 72 hours. The move comes five days after the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action announced its opposition to Senate Bill 613 because of the amendment, stating that it would have created a "de facto gun owner registry" in Missouri. State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, sponsored the amendment. She accused the Republican-led Senate of caving to the NRA's wishes. "(The NRA) really said to those individuals (in the Senate), 'We control you! You don't control yourselves! We don't want to report guns stolen in 72 hours, and because we don't want that, you go back and you reconsider it,'" Nasheed said. "And guess what they did -- they did just what the NRA told them to do!" Nasheed delayed the reconsideration vote Monday night by speaking against it on the Senate floor for more than four hours. Afterward, the
          Little progress evident as GOP hunts health bill votes   

Little progress evident as GOP hunts health bill votesSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explored options for salvaging the battered Republican health care bill Wednesday but confronted an expanding chorus of GOP detractors, deepening the uncertainty ...



          Senate Vote On Inhumane Trumpcare Bill Gets Put On Hold Due To Lack Of GOP Support   
The CBO found that this legislation would translate into 22 million more people becoming uninsured by 2026 years than under Obamacare.
          Blog Post: Sens. Grill Trump's Pick To Head DOJ Environmental Division   
President Donald Trump’s pick to be the top environmental law official at the U.S. Department of Justice faced skeptical Democrats on a Senate panel on Wednesday, with Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Jeffrey Bossert Clark fielding questions about his private practice and views on climate change.
          Step therapy: A delicate balance between patient care and health care costs (POLL)   
07 - UMMA Clinic Nursing

The onsite dispensary at UMMA Community Clinic in South Los Angeles. Insurance companies regulate how doctors prescribe certain medications, and most of the time, that works out just fine for patients. But there are exceptions.; Credit: Christopher Okula/KPCC

José Martinez

Loretta Jones doesn't hesitate upon being asked to describe her life living with fibromyalgia.

"It is so painful," she says. "It's so deep into your joint areas."

Jones, 72, is the CEO of Healthy African American Families, a South Los Angeles-based advocacy program that focuses on the health of minority communities.

"Say you had to get up, and someone took a knife and stuck it into you," she said. "And twisted it. That's how this pain feels."

To alleviate the long-term, body-wide pain that fibromyalgia causes, Jones' doctor prescribed the drug Lyrica. But Jones, who has good health insurance, said it took her a year-and-a-half to fill the prescription, because her insurance company had her on a regimen known as step therapy.

What is step therapy?

Dr. Derrick Butler, the associate medical director at T.H.E. Clinic in South L.A., said step therapy is implemented by insurance companies to regulate how doctors prescribe medicine.

"In prescribing, we have to usually start with the generic, base medicines," he said. "And until the patient has [tried those] and failed, or has tried those and had adverse events or side effects, then we are allowed to prescribe to the next level."

Butler described the procedure: Each new prescription ups the ante a little bit. Every new prescription is a step, and insurance companies will only cover certain drugs – usually brand-name, newer, more powerful or more expensive ones – after a certain number of steps have been completed.

For Loretta Jones, that process took too long.

"[I told my insurance company that] the pain keeps me up at nighttime," she said. "I'm crying, sitting in the bathtub, with my feet in the bathtub running cold water on them to stop the pain."

AB 889

If Assemblyman Jim Frazier has his way, stories like Jones' will be a thing of the past. Frazier, who represents California's 11th District, introduced AB 889, a state bill that would, among other things, limit the number of steps in step therapy. (See the full text of the bill below.)

"There are some processes that have even five to six steps before you can receive the intended medicine that your doctor prescribed," he said. "What we're trying to do is at least parallel what Medicare has – no more than two steps is what we're hoping for."

Although Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, Frazier is optimistic his bill will reach the governor's desk. It was approved by the state Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, and is headed to Senate Appropriations Committee next.

Frazier said patients' quality of life is the driving force behind the legislation. He remembered overhearing a conversation about a mental health patient who couldn't get the medicine he needed and was going through step therapy.

"They were being manhandled to go through this process," said Frazier. "They weren't being cured, they weren't being helped."

Why is step therapy important?

Insurance companies respond to claims about problems with step therapy with concerns about patient safety. Patrick Johnston is the president and CEO of the California Association of Health Plans, whose members collectively cover about 21 million Californians.

"We have a virtual epidemic of prescription drug abuse, and much of it is concentrated [among] young people whose brains are still forming in their teenage years and then into young adulthood," he said. "To the extent that those individuals or anyone is prescribed a serious pain medication, it's important to worry about the possibility of abuse."

The association is officially against AB 889. Johnston said he's wary of applying a single rule – the two-step limit – to step therapy. He added that gradually moving patients from benign to intense medications is an effective, safe way to dole out prescriptions – and that when certain situations call for it, there are ways steps can be accelerated or even skipped.

"To jump immediately to Oxycontin or some of the really useful, but dangerous drugs, would be a mistake," he said.

Dr. Derrick Butler, from T.H.E. Clinic, noted that in addition to patient safety, step therapy also helps with another very big aspect of health care: "It's all about cost."

Here's how: Generic medication is generally much, much cheaper than brand-name drugs. If the generics are effective, insurance companies can save hundreds – even thousands – of dollars per patient by making them try those before even giving them the option of more expensive brand-names. Multiply that by the number of people covered by an insurance plan, and it's easy to see how step therapy can keep costs down.

"I think it's necessary," said Butler of step therapy, "because I think we do need to control costs in health care. In order for us to really expand health care as we're going to do, we have to control costs."

It's also uncommon for patient health or safety to be affected by step therapy.

"I'd say 80 percent of patients can control their chronic conditions with generic medications," he said.

Folks like Loretta Jones, of course, are unfortunate exceptions. But Dr. Butler says in those situations, patients and doctors just have to "make enough noise" to the insurance companies, who will usually acquiesce to persistence.

What do you think about step therapy?

AB 889

This content is from Southern California Public Radio. View the original story at SCPR.org.


          Analysis: GOP Health Bill Could Cost California $114B   
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 28: Demonstrators protest changes to the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. After more senators said they would not offer support, senate Republican's yesterday announced they would delay a vote on their revised health-care bill. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)California officials say the state's budget could take a $30 billion annual hit if health care legislation proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans is passed.
          Comment on Any way you cut it — Americans lose health coverage by Senate Health Plan Hits Rural and Older Iowans Hardest – Iowa Policy Points   
[…] [1] Iowa Policy Points blog, Iowa Policy Project, June 26, 2017. https://iowapolicypoints.org/2017/06/26/any-way-you-cut-it-americans-lose-health-coverage/ […]
          Senate Leader Took Free Boxing Tickets   
"Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing. "

So much for Nancy Pelosi's charge of the GOP being the "party of corruption." As a matter of fact, her party has been the "party of corruption poster child" for many years, not to mention the Clinton years. What a joke. And she wants to be the next "Speaker of the House?" Give me a break!!!
          Ohio Senate Passes Bill to Ban Dismemberment Abortions That Slice and Crush an Unborn Baby   
Today the Ohio Senate passed a bill to protect unborn babies from brutal dismemberment abortions. Ohio Right to Life’s Dismemberment Abortion Ban (S.B. 145) was overwhelmingly approved by the Ohio Senate, 24-9. The legislation, which is sponsored by Senators Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville), is being heralded by Ohio Right to Life as the next […]
          Wow…have you seen this Hartford Courant Editorial?   

SqCapitolwithRays

(Please read and share the following July 28 Hartford Courant editorial for an update on the CT state budget.  Send me your comments at Eric.Berthel@cga.ct.gov – thank you!)

Mr. Aresimowicz, Get The Democrats To The Capitol

It’s on you, Joe Aresimowicz.

For many months, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives has known that the state was facing a multibillion-dollar problem. He knew legislators would have to make painful cuts and find creative and fair ways to raise revenues if they had a prayer of solving it.

And they had a deadline. The fiscal year ends Friday.

But now, after mustering zero workable solutions over the past few months and with only hours to go, Mr. Aresimowicz has refused to call for a vote on a reasonable stop-gap budget offered by the governor and supported by the Senate‘s Republican and Democratic leaders.

Why? Because, Mr. Aresimowicz said, a temporary solution isn’t good enough — but also because the Democrats are on vacation.

“I believe my members are less than likely to hop on planes and leave their families at vacation places all over this country and other countries to come in and do a temporary fix,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He refused to identify for The Courant those Democratic state representatives who chose to go on vacation at a critical time in one of the most serious budget crises the state has ever faced. Leaving town this week is a stunning dereliction of duty.

Mr. Aresimowicz and the rest of the House Democratic caucus are instead choosing to accept spending cuts so drastic that basic social safety nets for some of the state’s most vulnerable will be lost. Cuts to town aid will be so deep that local officials might have to recast their entire budgets. The move also puts the state’s shaky credit rating at further risk.

Apparently realizing that the legislature is incapable of finding its own elbows, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this week wisely offered legislators the option of passing a “mini-budget” for the next quarter that would allow for some new revenue (much of it already earmarked for certain programs but not yet spent). Without a budget, the governor can’t raise revenue or shift funds. He can only slash millions, cutting services for the sick and the poor and eviscerating school funding grants to towns.

The vote on the mini-budget would have to take place Thursday or Friday. If nothing passes by the end of Friday, the governor’s executive order budget goes into effect.

If Mr. Aresimowicz continues to refuse to call for a vote, the impacts will be felt immediately. It will eliminate services to some clients of the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Rental assistance will be slashed by millions. Funding for summer youth jobs will be completely eliminated.

School funding will see the biggest cuts if the legislature can’t come up with a budget before the fall. How big? Take West Hartford. In the last fiscal year, the city received $20.9 million in state funding for schools. Under the governor’s proposed executive order, West Hartford would receive $4.3 million. Simsbury, which received about $6 million last year, would get zero dollars.

Do the math.

The most frustrating thing is that through these past few months, the legislature wasted time debating and amending bills that didn’t stand a chance of becoming law, and leadership knew it. Mr. Aresimowicz placated members of his caucus by entertaining floor debate on bills such as marijuana legalization that were soon enough left to rot.

How could House Democrats have gone months without coming up with a workable, clear, full-spectrum solution to the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall? Did they not realize that that was their job? Or did their own internal politicking get in the way?

One Democratic effort to fashion a budget failed spectacularly in April when a 262-page detailed spending plan couldn’t even get a vote in the Democrat-controlled appropriations committee. In May, Democrats offered a one-page sketch of a plan, along with a spreadsheet containing more details. Since then, nary a peep from the party nominally in control of the legislature.

Others had their priorities in order.

The Senate and House Republicans, and Mr. Malloy, came up with actual spending plans. Their respective strengths and weaknesses are debatable (Mr. Malloy’s budget director Ben Barnes told The Courant’s editorial board that the House Republican’s plan contained “large pieces of baloney”), but that’s the point — they have offered something to debate.

What have House Democrats offered?

Shamefully little.

And now they refuse to vote on a measure that would at least keep some basic protections in place.

Mr. Barnes warned that if the legislature refused to vote on the mini-budget, there would be a “significant risk” of another bond rating downgrade from Wall Street. “They are paying close attention to what we are doing,” he said.

Mr. Aresimowicz’s failure to call for a vote, to say nothing of his failure to craft a complete budget proposal that was at least palatable to his own caucus, is an abrogation of a serious responsibility, and the consequences for the people of Connecticut are going to be profound.

It’s mystifying how legislators could be so cavalier about solving the budget problem, the most important thing they have to do.

Connecticut’s Democratic leaders need to ask themselves: Whom do you serve?

Mr. Aresimowicz, call for a vote.


          Senate Republicans call for a special budget session before the fiscal year deadline 6 27 17   


          Senate Republicans call for a special budget session before the fiscal year deadline 6 27 17   


          Thursday, July 13: Cheshire Lawmakers Host Town Hall Meeting   

CHESHIRE –  State lawmakers invite taxpayers to attend their Post-Session Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, July 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Cheshire Town Hall Council Chambers.  Sens. Joe Markley and Len Suzio and Reps. Lezlye Zupkus and Craig Fishbein will re-cap the recently concluded 2017 legislative session, discuss the Connecticut state budget, and answer taxpayers’ questions.  The event is open to the public.  For more information, contact Chris Diorio in the CT Senate Republican Office at 800-842-1421.

PSTHM JM Cheshire 7-13-2017[2]


          Thursday, July 13: Cheshire Lawmakers Host Town Hall Meeting   

CHESHIRE –  State lawmakers invite taxpayers to attend their Post-Session Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, July 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Cheshire Town Hall Council Chambers.  Sens. Joe Markley and Len Suzio and Reps. Lezlye Zupkus and Craig Fishbein will re-cap the recently concluded 2017 legislative session, discuss the Connecticut state budget, and answer taxpayers’ questions.  The event is open to the public.  For more information, contact Chris Diorio in the CT Senate Republican Office at 800-842-1421.

PSTHM JM Cheshire 7-13-2017[2]


          Legislators Honor Over 200 Veterans at War Time Service Medal Ceremony   

GroupSenatorKissel

Senator Kissel, Representative Zawistowski and Representative Storms Host Tri-Town Veteran’s Ceremony at East Granby High School

 HARTFORD, Conn. – State Senator John A. Kissel (R-Enfield), Representative Tami Zawistowski (R-East Granby) and Representative Scott Storms (R-Windsor Locks) hosted a Tri-Town Veteran’s War Time Service Medal Ceremony at East Granby High School on Thursday, June 22.  Legislators were joined by the Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner, Sean Connolly, who helped distribute the War Time Service Medals to more than 200 recipients.

“Last week we had a beautiful ceremony in East Granby where we honored more than 200 veterans,” said Sen. Kissel. “Far too often veteran’s sacrifices go unnoticed and this was a time for the community to show respect and admiration for these brave men and women. I offer these individuals the most sincere gratitude for their continued commitment to our great nation and the state of Connecticut.  These heroes selflessly sacrificed so that we may continue to enjoy our way of life. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank them for their enduring patriotism.”

“It was an honor to recognize the individuals and their families who sacrificed so much on behalf of our country,” said Rep. Zawistowski.  “It is wonderful that Connecticut created this medal in 2005 to recognize our state’s veterans who have fought to ensure out freedom and all the ideals of our great country.  Over the years, our veterans have been through more than anyone could imagine, and I am humbled that we, as a state, were able to recognize them for their service and dedication.”

“Those who answer the call to military service do so prepared to make sacrifices far beyond what most citizens can imagine,” added Rep. Storms.  “I hope that through our medal ceremony, we not only recognized the substantial contributions and sacrifices of our wartime veterans, but expressed our appreciation to families and friends who stand by our service men and women with unwavering support.  To all our veterans and their families, thank you for all you have done for our state and our country to preserve our most precious freedoms.”

 “It is truly an honor to pin the Connecticut Wartime Service Medal on Connecticut’s great veterans and be a part of such an incredible showing of appreciation for their service, sacrifice and dedication to our state and country,” said Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, Sean M. Connolly.

The Connecticut War Time Service Medal is available to Connecticut Veterans who have performed at least 90 days of wartime service as a Connecticut resident. For more information about the Connecticut War Time Service Medal program visit www.ct.gov/ctva or call 860-616-3600.

 


          Suzio Pledges Support to Middlefield Small Business   

Senator Suzio Visit

Sen. Len Suzio (right) on June 27 visited Middlefield manufacturer Wepco Plastics to discuss his efforts at the State Capitol to help family-owned Connecticut small businesses grow and thrive.  Wepco CFO Charles Daniels (left) welcomed Suzio.  Wepco employs more than 20 people and specializes in prototypes and short- to medium-run production of plastic-injection molded parts that are designed by customers in the consumer goods, defense, marine, electronics, medical and aerospace industries. On the web:  www.wepcoplastics.com and www.senatorsuzio.com .  Suzio represents Cheshire, Meriden, Middlefield, Middletown and Rockfall.  He can be reached at Len.Suzio@cga.ct.gov or call 800-842-1421.

 

 

 


          July 12 in Prospect: Lawmakers host town hall meeting.   

PROSPECT –  Sen. Joe Markley and Rep. Lezlye Zupkus invite taxpayers to attend their Post-Session Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, July 12 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Prospect Town Hall.  The state lawmakers will re-cap the recently concluded 2017 legislative session, discuss the Connecticut state budget, and answer taxpayers’ questions.  The event is open to the public.  For more information, contact Chris Diorio in the CT Senate Republican Office at 800-842-1421.

 

PSTHM JM Prospect 7-12-2017[2]


          Trading the CBO: 6 buys in healthcare   
The "Fast Money" traders give you 6 ways to trade the release of the CBO score for the Senate health-care bill.
          Medicaid caps in health care bills could push more special needs costs onto schools   
Addie Hart-Ellis starred in the school play, sat on student council, played an instrument and joined the baseball team at Whitefish Bay Middle School last year, all thanks in part to Medicaid. The 13-year-old is nonverbal and has cognitive disabilities and like more than 118,000 students with special needs in Wisconsin schools, the medical services she receives during the school day are paid for in part by the federal funding stream. But that could change under the recently passed House health care bill and the Senate bill now under consideration.
          Helpful Tips to Pass a Responsible Budget   
By Gordon Hintz 

MADISON – As the state budget impasse between the Republican Senate and Republican Assembly continues, Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) offered five budget tips for legislative Republicans to help pass a responsible budget.

1.      Pass a long-term transportation funding solution to address the ongoing shortfall.  As long as transportation funding relies on increased borrowing or delayed projects, budgets will remain difficult. If you continue borrowing, more transportation revenue is spent paying off debt and interest. Plus important building projects in the UW System will be cut in order to manage total state debt.  If you raid the general fund to pay for roads, that funding comes at the expense of other state investments like K-12 public education. If you continue to delay projects, those cost increase, the state spends more on maintenance, and the problem will get worse for the 2019-21 budget. You increased fees to fund our state parks so it is hard to understand what is different here. Just fix it.
2.      Fund your most important priorities first. If funding K-12 education is truly the most important investment, then start there and pay for Wisconsin’s public schools first.  This might mean you don’t have enough money to repeal the state forestry mill tax for $180 million or fund the Governor’s increased school levy credit at the full amount. But if putting dollars in classrooms around the state is really a priority, then there should not be a disagreement.


3.      Don’t create new spending programs when you are unable or unwilling to fund existing ones. If you are struggling to fund K-12 education or the UW System’s existing programs, don’t create new ongoing expenses like expanded taxpayer supported private school vouchers for kids that are already going to private school.  And reconsider the new $3 million already approved for a new redundant public policy school of conservative thought.


4.      Don’t phase in tax cuts you won’t be able to pay for in the future. The manufacturing and agriculture tax credit was passed in the 2011 budget at the last minute, with zero public hearing or input. It was supposed to be gradually phased in starting in 2013 before reaching a total annual cost of $128 million in 2017 when fully implemented. The cost of the credit in the current 2015-17 budget is $517.4 million. Despite modest growth in state revenue, programs were cut in order to pay for the credit, such as the $250 million cut to the UW System.  It is now expected to cost $320.2 million in FY2018 and $334 million in FY2019. Don’t make this mistake again.  Before you consider proposals such as repealing the personal property tax, make sure you can pay for it in the future. Since the Governor’s proposed budget spends $366 million more than the revenue collected, it is unlikely that the state will be able to cover the local revenue loss in future budgets without cutting other state programs.



5.      Don’t use one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses. Spending one-time money from an existing fund balance or transferring money from a segregated account to cover ongoing general fund expenses creates future imbalances.  It is irresponsible to use one-time money during a period of modest economic growth. Raiding the state veterans nursing home fund to pay for ongoing veterans trust fund programs creates future imbalances. When balances run out, the state general fund will have to cover the cost.

          The GOP Wheelchair Round Up   
By Jeff Simpson



Today, former President Obama, took some time off of his vacation, to address the hot button issue of the day,  The AHCA act(or Ryancare as I will now refer to it as).

Being an actual writer and able to put more thought into something than 144 misspelled characters,  President Obama took to Facebook: